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10 Observations: Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine


Pepperdine v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Gonzaga continued its undefeated season with a 95-70 win over the Waves of Pepperdine, but everything wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at the Kennel last night for Mark Few’s team.

  1. It was pretty obvious the Zags came out sluggish in the first half. We didn’t see the same crisp ball movement and action on the offensive end, and Pepperdine was able to use that to keep the game close throughout the opening twenty minutes.
  2. This game had the makings of a potential upset as the first half drew to a close. The Waves were playing with more energy, and Darryl Polk Jr.’s three at the halftime buzzer looked like it could have been a huge momentum lift for Pepperdine.
  3. One of the few first half bright spots for Gonzaga was the play of Anton Watson, specifically on the defensive end. His versatility and athleticism allow him to guard any position on the floor and play passing lanes effectively as well. We saw this near the end of the first half, when he picked off a pass at the top of the key and took it the other way for an easy slam.
  4. We imagined the Zags would get their act together and come out stronger in the second half, and they did just that. A Corey Kispert three on the opening possession followed by a forced turnover on the other was a good start out of the halftime break.
  5. While there was some improvement to start the second half, the Zags still looked a bit inconsistent, and foul trouble looked like it might come back to bite Gonzaga later on. Nembhard, Suggs, and Ayayi all picked up their third or fourth fouls early in the half, but they were luckily able to stay out of trouble for the rest of the game.
  6. A sequence just before the 14-minute mark served as a perfect microcosm of the Zags on both ends and helped swing them into shape. Jalen Suggs chased down a loose ball and saved it to Drew Timme, and a few passes later the ball was in Kispert’s hands going to the rim. Suggs’ energy and the team’s proficiency in the open court are trademarks of this Gonzaga squad, and this play put that on display while proving to be a key turning point as the team began to get into rhythm offensively.
  7. One of the keys for Gonzaga’s offensive breakthrough was the emergence of Drew Timme. He was pretty dormant for large portions of this game, but was finally able to break free of Pepperdine’s defense and get some good looks later on. His back-to-back and-1’s around the ten minute mark helped jump start both himself and the team.
  8. What started as a pretty quiet game from Corey Kispert turned into another display of shooting prowess from the senior guard. He was once again a danger from deep, and his barrage of threes late in the game helped lead Gonzaga’s offensive charge. He finished 6 for 11 from three with 23 points, his seventh 20 point game this season.
  9. Once the game was put out of reach, Mark Few was able to get his starters off the floor and give some reserves some extra minutes. The most intriguing of this bunch was probably Ben Gregg. The freshman big man appeared in his fourth game after graduating high school early and reclassifying to this year’s class. On the broadcast, ESPN’s Jay Bilas made an interesting comment that Gregg could possibly play meaningful minutes by the end of the season, such is his potential. As if the embarrassment of riches for this team wasn’t great enough already.
  10. A look at the final score of this game doesn’t tell the whole story. Pepperdine played a great game, especially coming off a 23 day COVID induced layoff. Gonzaga did not play well for large portions of this game, and the Waves were able to keep them honest. That being said, when a 25 point win over a potential top three team in the WCC is considered a subpar performance, it goes to show the level of expectation and potential that this Zags team has.