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WCC Tournament Semifinal Preview: Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine

After numerous upsets, Pepperdine moves on to face top-ranked Zags

NCAA Basketball: Pepperdine at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been nine days since the Zags have been in action and most of us have been going through withdrawals. However, when you’re at the top of your conference, a three-round bye is what you earn for WCC tournament play. Although the rest of us may be antsy for Gonzaga basketball, the bye allows the Bulldogs to rest up and refresh themselves after playing a four-month, 31-game regular season.

Most assumed that the Zags would take on San Francisco in the semi-final, but after upsetting Loyola Marymount on Friday and moving on to stun the Dons on Saturday night, Pepperdine will be the matchup. Due to the WCC’s implementation of an unbalanced schedule at the start of this season, allowing the top seeded teams to play the low seeded teams only once, the Bulldogs and Waves only met once this season. That game just so happened to be the same game in which Josh Perkins became Gonzaga’s career assist leader after completing nine assists during the contest.

In that commanding 92-64 win in Spokane, Rui Hachimura scored 23 points, Zach Norvell Jr. had 21 points and Brandon Clarke added 16 to the total. The Waves’ Darnell Dunn scored 16 points, Jade Smith sank 13, and Colbey Ross added 12 of his own. Gonzaga shot 63 percent while holding Pepperdine to just 38 percent. With this defeat, Pepperdine lost to Gonzaga 36 consecutive times dating back to 2002.

NCAA Basketball: Pepperdine at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

During their blowout 89-72 win over (4) San Francisco, (8) Pepperdine was led by Ross with 26 points while Kameron Edwards and Eric Cooper added 14 and 13 respectively. In terms of field goal percentage, both teams shot fairly evenly throughout the game. The key to Pepperdine’s success came from beyond the arc, scoring 14 of 28 three-pointers and 19 of 25 free throws.

As far as the Zags are concerned, they’ve been focusing on themselves while finalizing their game plan for the tournament. In the words of Corey Kispert, “Especially since we don’t know who we’re going to play on Monday, it’s all about ourselves.” One of the many benefits of being the top team in the country is that they get to practice against the best of the best amongst themselves, which keeps the team sharp while they continue to fine-tune a few areas like defense and rebounding. In other good news, Mark Few is very optimistic about Killian Tillie getting some quality playing time in Vegas. On Thursday, Tillie practiced with the team for extended minutes and his game appearance will mostly depend on how his foot reacts after such a workout.

Gametime: Monday, March 11 @ 6pm PDT on ESPN