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Gonzaga makes it rain in 99-73 win over Pepperdine

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16 threes and another big game from Domantas Sabonis helps Gonzaga cruise by the Waves

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe everything's not always fine at the 'Dine. The Pepperdine Waves made the trek up from sunny Malibu to snowy Spokane, but they did not receive a warm welcome as the Zags extended their winning streak against Pepperdine to 30 consecutive games.

The Waves have improved in each of the last four seasons since the graduation of Gus Clardy (Coincidence? I think not), and they entered the Kennel riding a five-game winning streak--their longest string of victories since December 2004. However, Pepperdine couldn't use that momentum to break their drought as they remain winless in Spokane since 1998. To put that into perspective, the last time Pepperdine beat the Zags in Spokane, Britney Spears had just released "Baby One More Time" and Dawson's Creek was the place to be.

The Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders and raced out to a 37-9 lead thanks to a barrage of threes from anyone wearing a white Gonzaga jersey. Josh Perkins foreshadowed what was to come when he led off with a triple, and four of Gonzaga's first five made shots came from deep as Eric McClellan, Bryan Alberts, and Kyle Wiltjer all found the bottom of the basket. Pepperdine entered the game allowing opponents to shoot only 25.5% from the three-point line--good for fifth in the nation--but the Zags found success early and often from deep en route to shooting a robust 61.5% (16-26) from the three-point line.

Pepperdine did not do themselves any favors in the early going as they settled for threes and missed gimmes that they can't afford against competition like Gonzaga. However, Pepperdine junior point guard Jeremy Major was eventually able to make a 12-0 run late in the first half--including a buzzer beater--to keep the Waves in the game. Unfortunately for the Waves, breakout junior forward Lamond Murray, got knocked out of the game with an apparent hip injury; and Stacy Davis, a two-time All-WCC player, just couldn't get himself going to help Pepperdine climb back into this game.

The second half started much like the first with Eric McClellan hitting a 3. It's been really fun to watch him elevate his game over the last two weeks as he's become the most consistent member of the backcourt. Another member of the backcourt had an excellent game as Josh Perkins got hot as he made 5 of 6 threes and exhibited better decision-making (for the most part) throughout the contest. His display in the second half showed us how good this team can be when he's playing at the level his talent suggests.

The offense looked a lot better tonight because the inside-out combo actually had some teeth. Domantas had another impressive game and his improvement continues to put a goofy smile on my face. He's rapidly become a well-rounded player during his short time in Spokane, and has turned into a truly dominant player on both ends of the floor. At the end of last season, NBA scouts were in love with his defense and elite rebounding skills. The evolution of his game into a go-to offensive piece will have those same scouts salivating. Domas' growth has eased the burden on Kyle and it's been a lot fun to watch him and Kyle work the high-low game.

Sabonis Splash

Sabonis Splash!

It's nice to see the Guards playing aggressively and attacking the rim. It's creating more space for everyone. Everytime the offense lacks imagination it's because the guards stop attacking and are settling for threes. Pepperdine's run at the end of the first half was fueled by the the Zags getting away from attacking the center of the defense and falling in love with the three (I realize they were shooting well to start the game but you don't want to get lazy). But, at least for tonight, that's nitpicking as the Zags easily played their best game of the season. What a nice way to start the conference schedule!

Some thoughts:

  • Pepperdine's not as bad as the scoreline indicated, and they showed some flashes in this game. However, this would have been a laugher by the end of the first half if not for Jeremy Major almost single-handedly keeping his team in the game.
  • The hot shooting from just about everyone allowed Kyle to have a low-key night without inducing any hand-wringing, as he only finished with 9 points (1-6 fg).
  • Defense to Offense. Excellent defensive play fuels easy offense. Started 7-8 from the 3pt line with 7 different guys hitting a 3 (even a Sabonis Splash!)
  • Perkins was 2-16 from the 3pt line in the last 5 games. Let's hope tonight is a sign of good things to come.
  • Refs missed an awful travel by Pepperdine's Jett Raines which turned into an and-1. If the Zags weren't up by 25 points I would've been a little upset.
  • 6 assists for Domas is a consequence of the defense collapsing on him everytime he touches the ball in the paint. He has so many more passing options because of the extra help, and his basketball IQ allows him to see this and play smart inside-out basketball.
  • The Zags bucked this season's trend, at least for tonight, by avoiding another second half collapse as they made adjustments to contain Jeremy Major and continued to find good shots in the half court offense.
  • The backcourt had their best game of the season as they contributed 58 points, and converted 13 of 22 from the 3pt line.