The Gonzaga Bulldogs will be back on ESPN2 this Saturday when they hit Malibu to take on the Pepperdine Waves.
While Gonzaga has maintained an absurd 40-game win streak over Pepperdine, the Waves have given the Bulldogs some competitive games, err maybe halves, over their last few meetings.
A sobering thought that just occurred to me—Gonzaga’s visit to Pepperdine last season was the last sporting event I attended in person. Just another reminder that this pandemic has raged on for a long time. At least my last live sporting event involved watching a Gonzaga win with good company in a beautiful place.
Meet the Opponent
Pepperdine Waves, 7-7 (3-2 WCC), KenPom #128
Pepperdine just completed its home and away with BYU earlier this week and won the home game against the Cougars by the score of 76-73, so they should be feeling good headed into their second look at Gonzaga. The Waves have some good athletes that can get up and down with the Zags, and we know that they play up for Gonzaga regardless of how their season is going.
What to Watch Out For
Controlling Colbey Ross
Ross is Pepperdine’s best player and one of the best players in the WCC, so the plan should always be to slow him down first. Gonzaga did a great job with this in the first game a few weeks ago limiting Ross to 9 points and a 63 offensive rating on KenPom—one of the worst marks of his career. Ross has averaged 6.2 turnovers in his last five games against Gonzaga, so if the Zags continue to force him into that many mistakes, it should be a long night for Pepperdine’s offense. The Waves can’t survive with Ross being held to single digit scoring against many teams, and especially not against Gonzaga.
Gonzaga’s Ball Control
While Ross has struggled to take care of the ball against Gonzaga, the Zags were guilty of that offense as a collective in the last matchup, turning the ball over more than Pepperdine 18 to 16. Gonzaga was a bit sloppy and lethargic in the first half of that game, but pulled away quickly in the second half with a 16-2 run once the mistakes were reduced. This won’t be a close game if Gonzaga looks like the team we saw in the second half and not the first.
A Faster Start for Gonzaga
For the fourth time in the last five games, Gonzaga has gotten off to a slow start before kicking things into gear and securing a comfortable win. This might officially be a habit now. After the excitement of so many marquee non-conference games against good teams, WCC play was always going to feature an emotional letdown for players (and fans). The Zags know they are a really good team, and as we’ve seen over the last few weeks, they probably only need to summon their A-game for a 10-15 minute stretch to pick up a win in the WCC. Based on Drew Timme’s comments after the San Diego game on Thursday night, Mark Few has had enough of it and lit into the team for playing lifeless basketball. Let’s see if things start to turn around on Saturday.
Drew Timme didn't mince words in post game about the Zags early game struggles the past few weeks.— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) January 29, 2021
"Coach lit into us like we needed to get lit in to... This is kind of a reoccurring thing. We need to get this thing in check." pic.twitter.com/IIhPFvG5YQ