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Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine game preview: Conference play opens up

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We are halfway through the season, now it is time for the other half!

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Zags open up conference play at home against the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday night as they enter conference play undefeated. Will the WCC send ‘em to the tournament as a one loss team? A two loss team? We will just have to wait and find out.

The Waves are really feeling the hurt after losing Stacy Davis to graduation last season. Pepperdine has lost seven-straight games coming into tonight’s contest. Opening your conference play against Gonzaga in Spokane isn’t exactly a naturopathic remedy to your ills either.

Meet the opponent

Pepperdine Waves, 4-8, Ken Pom #243

Pepperdine has three major scorers on the squad. Senior guards Lamond Murray (19.3 points) and Jeremy Major (11.6 points) and senior forward Chris Reyes (14.7 points). After that, it is a real steep drop off in experience. Of the eight-active players averaging double-digit minutes for Pepperdine, only two played at all last season with the Waves (Reyes transferred over from Utah).

In a conference with complete guards, Murray is another one to add on top of the pile. His scoring explosion from last season has continued, only this time around he has also added a much better three-point shot to the mix. Murray is hitting 47.8 percent from long range, and overall the Waves are a deadly squad from deep—as a team hitting 40 percent, good for No. 25 in the country.

Of course, there is the flip side of that equation, which is their opponents hit 43.5 percent from long range, which is good for No. 350 in the country. Overall, the Waves are a good shooting team. They hit 46.8 percent from the floor, but their defense is rather abysmal. And, this squad can’t take a trip to the free-throw line to save their lives. They average just 15 trips to the charity stripe per game, where they only hit 64.1 percent of ‘em. By comparison, Gonzaga averages 21.8 free throw attempts per game, and that is still middle of the pack in the nation.

What to watch out for

The holiday hangover.

It has been quite some time since the Zags played ball together, and they won’t have the advantage of a rowdy-ish Kennel Club at their backs. That in itself makes this a slight trap game in the sense that Pepperdine has the scorers to keep themselves in the game. The Waves probably won’t, but there is the off chance they can take advantage of a slightly rusty Zags squad.

Take care of the ball and attack the offensive glass.

Pepperdine’s defense has one glaring weaknesses: they don’t force a lot of turnovers. That means the Zags shouldn’t have to worry about a whole lot of traps or pressure on the ball, but that still hasn’t stopped Gonzaga from getting a bit carefree with swinging the ball around. Turnovers are bad, and unforced turnovers are the freaking worst. Pepperdine isn’t going to force too many of them, and the Zags should be able to finish with single digits in that category.

On the offensive glass end, the Zags own the Waves in height, but Pepperdine is a sneaky good defensive rebounding team. This will be a battle on the glass, and the Zags have been a bit soft on rebounding all season. The perfect time to work on that is against undersized WCC competition.

Game info

  • Time: 6:00 pm PT
  • TV: KHQ/ROOT
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: WatchESPN/TheW.tv (in select markets)