Gonzaga rolled into WCC play with an undefeated schedule and the struggling Pepperdine Waves in town while mired in a 7-game losing streak. But based on how the two teams played for extended periods of the game, fans could be forgiven for doubting both of those facts. In the end, however, the massive gulf in talent between the two teams won out as five Bulldogs scored in double figures to highlight Gonzaga’s balanced attack which wore down the Waves.
Gonzaga played the first half against Pepperdine like a team that had an eight day layoff between games. They weren’t bad, but they also weren’t great, seeming to lack the edge and execution on both ends of the court that have helped them jump out to a 12-0 record.
The Waves came into this contest as a subpar defense and one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Despite that, the Zags coughed up three turnovers in the first 2:30 in the game, and took a little over two minutes before scoring its first points of the game.
Most of the first 10 minutes of the game featured Gonzaga missing a lot of good shots that we normally see them make, however, the defense was able to force several turnovers (16 steals overall) and feasted on easy transition points as Pepperdine was slow to get back on defense. By the end of the game, Pepperdine’s 20 turnovers allowed the Bulldogs to gather a 28-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
Another point of interest going into the contest was the match up between Gonzaga’s #1 ranked three-point defense (26.7%) and Pepperdine’s 5th ranked three-point shooting (42.1%). Pepperdine achieves that high percentage by being extremely selective and waiting for good looks, and they were able to maintain that philosophy en route to a 42.9% (8-14) night from distance which was helped by Lamond Murray hitting his first three shots from the arc.
The first half malaise would not carry over into the second half, and Gonzaga played with much greater energy and purpose in the final 20 minutes. Killian Tillie flashed his athleticism on a pair of alley-oops, and the Bulldogs dominated the boards (44-28) in a sign of progress for what has been the team’s only significant issue this season.
The second half also featured much greater emphasis on taking advantage of the size disparity in the post, with Przemek Karnowski (16 points) and Zach Collins (12 points) regularly establishing deep position on the low blocks.
Ultimately, Gonzaga took care of business and hopefully shook off all the rust of the holidays as they prepare to hit the road for the team’s first true away game of the season when they take on Pacific on New Year’s Eve.