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Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine game preview: Let's hope the second time is easier

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Gonzaga's first game against Pepperdine was terrifying.

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Last time the Gonzaga Bulldogs faced the Pepperdine Waves, a low key Thursday night turned into an evening full of heartburn as Gonzaga barely held on for a two-point win. Hopefully, this time around, it all comes a bit easier.

Gonzaga looked to be coasting to an easy win against the Waves, but a monumental and collective failure as a team from the free throw line almost allowed Pepperdine to come away with a win. Stacy Davis dropped 21 points and Jett Raines scored 22. It took big nights from Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer to avoid the panicked loss.

For the record, Gonzaga never really trailed in the game, but it was a stressful night. There was no upset in Gonzaga's win streak, which now stands at 18 games. Pepperdine is on the other end of that spectrum, riding a two-game losing streak in a couple of games against San Diego and Portland that weren't ever close.

Meet the opponent

Pepperdine Waves, 15-10, KenPom #115

The big difference this time around is that Stacy Davis will be back in the starting lineup. Actually, this isn't realistically that much of a difference because Davis was playing starter-like minutes while the bench experiment was going. It seemed to work out pretty well, for the most part. During his six game stint of coming off the bench, Davis averaged 19.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. Since returning to the starting lineup, that production has gone down a bit and he is averaging 13.8 points per game over his last five games.

Again, for the Waves, the offense isn't the best. After Davis you have Jett Raines and Jeremy Major, then not a lot of firepower. The Waves get it done with an attention to defense. Gonzaga, for the most part, was able to bust through that the last time around against the Waves and hit 50 percent of their three-pointers. That is no easy feat. Pepperdine's three-point defense is some of the best in the nation, and opponents hit just 27.3 of their attempts -- good for No. 5 in the nation.

The four factors

All statistics are courtesy of Ken Pomeroy.

Gonzaga Pepperdine
eFG% 58.9 (2) 47.7 (222)
TO% 16.6 (34) 19.0 (143)
OR% 36.1 (34) 28.6 (260)
FTR 39.2 (119) 38.7 (131)
Win index 96 4

What to watch out for

The free throw battle.

This is just a manufactured storyline by yours truly. Gonzaga was terrible with the free throws last time around. Historically terrible. That is why the game was a two-point game instead of a 12 point game. Shooting poorly from the free throw line is a dangerous game to play against the Waves, because they are one of the better free throw shooting teams in the nation. As a team, Pepperdine hits 76.3 of its free throws, good for No. 8 in the country.

Kyle Wiltjer is making a run for WCC Player of the Year.

It isn't a sure thing yet by any stretch, but Kyle Wiltjer has been playing out of his mind lately. In the past three games, he is averaging 24 points and nine rebounds. In the process, he is shooting 57 percent from the floor, including 57 percent from three point and 80 percent from the free throw line. We always knew WCC teams would struggle to contain Wiltjer, but it is pretty clear that no one has the answer for the Gonzaga star.

Game info

Time: 5 p.m. PT

TV: KHQ/ROOT Sports

Online: TheW.tv

Radio: AM 1510 KGA (Spokane), AM 880 KIXI (Seattle), AM 1360 KUIK (Portland)