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Ten Observations from the Pepperdine Win

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A 28-point victory and an historical night for Josh Perkins

NCAA Basketball: Pepperdine at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Let’s be brutally honest, the WCC Coach who said:

I’m not a fan of Josh Perkins, man. I don’t think you can win at a high level with him. He’s got guts, but he’s not a pure point guard. He’s prone to have a bad one at the wrong time. Late in the game, he wants to take over and he’s streaky. He can make four or five in a row, but he can turn it over twice and miss three in a row.

If the comment was made prior to the beginning of the season, several people would have agreed with him. Perkins has been on an upward trajectory every season culminating in this year’s spectacular play. He’s exhibited the skills and fortitude to prove his doubters wrong resulting in last night’s historic record. Congratulations Josh!

2. Last night, Brandon Clarke had two SportsCenter Top 10 worthy blocks on dunk attempts but what doesn’t show up in the box score or the highlight reels are his intimidation turnovers. Last night, a Pepperdine player froze in the key and got a 3-second call because he was afraid to pull the trigger against Clarke.. It’s happened throughout the season, opponents get stuck in the key, travel or throw the ball away because Clarke’s reputation looms large.

3. Pepperdine grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, the 13th time in 27 games Gonzaga’s opponent reached double digits in that category. The numbers are concerning but can be mitigated when you realize the Zags are 11th in the nation in 3-point defense, 6th in opponent effective FG% and 4th in the nation in blocks per game. Opponents miss a lot of threes resulting in long rebounds (LMU missed 13 and Pepperdine missed 16). Additionally, as mentioned above, opponents intimidated by Clarke rush interior shots, miss, and get their own offensive rebounds. For example, Darnell Dunn led Pepperdine with six offensive rebounds but three of those were his own or a teammates missed lay-ups.

4. A 2016 rule change was supposed to dramatically reduce player control (charging) fouls and punish players for flopping but you wouldn’t know it watching last night’s game or the San Diego game. At the 13:11 point in the first half, Colby Ross had to sit after a Geno Crandall flop gave him his second foul. 10 seconds later, an obvious Jade Smith flop resulted in a make-up charge call on Josh Perkins. Three minutes after that, a Colby Ross flop resulted in an offensive foul on Kispert. One of the few coherent things Bill Walton said on Saturday night during the San Diego game was pointing out the excessive flopping then stating the referees need stop the whistles and let the players play.

5. Speaking of horrible refereeing, the “hanging on the rim” call against Pepperdine’s Kessler Edwards after the spectacular Brandon Clarke dunk block was historically bad.

6. Filip Petrusev missed two chances for easy dunks last night by not rolling to the basket with no one behind him. The second time, it fired up Josh Perkins who let him know about the error.

7. After Pepperdine jumped out to a 7-2 lead, Rui took over the game for the next nine minutes scoring 21 first half points on 9 for 11 shooting with 5 rebounds. Zach Norvell then took over the next nine minutes hitting four 3’s and two floaters to score 17 first half points. After a mid-season slump Norvell’s has scored double digits with 35 three pointers in the last 11 games. What concerned me last night was another Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson type outburst during a key NCAA tournament game significantly raising his draft stock a la Zach Collins against South Carolina.

8. Richard Fox noted the number of “jump balls” last night as the teams battled and dove on the floor for every loose ball. Pepperdine continued to battle despite being down by 30 as did Gonzaga despite the huge lead. The Wave did go on a 21 to 3 second half run to get a 33-point lead down to 15, but six minutes later GU’s second team pushed it back up to 32.

9. Almost lost in the Brandon Clarke block party was a Corey Kispert block that may have been the game’s best. Early in the second half, Pepperdine’s Eric Cooper had an easy lay-up but Kispert came in from behind to swat the ball, controlled the block to lead the fast break, then completed the play with an assist to Perkins.

10. Tough not to end the night where it began, on Josh Perkins. Two days ago, Josh was named to the WCC All Academic team for the third straight year. He’s completing his Master’s degree in organizational leadership after getting his undergraduate degree in sports management. Josh exemplifies the student-athlete, something that’s become increasing rare in today’s high level college athletics.