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Gonzaga Spots Pepperdine Early Lead, Wins by 22

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The Aaron Cook Breakout Game

ZagMBB | Twitter

Pepperdine came out guns a blazing on Saturday night, knowing what a win could do for them in the WCC Standings. Before Gonzaga could blink, the Waves held a 16-7 lead at the first media timeout. Whatever the coaching staff said to the Bulldogs in that timeout seemed to work. They turned up the intensity and looked the Zags that have been ranked number one for the entire season. Six Zags finished in double figures as they decimated Pepperdine 97-75 to improve to 17-0.

It was Aaron Cook who was the catalyst to Gonzaga’s big first half run. Much like the Saint Mary’s game in Moraga, Cook came off the bench and gave the lethargic Bulldogs a huge boost. He started the game 5-for-5, took a charge on Colbey Ross, and had this incredible pass.

With Jalen Suggs on the bench with two fouls, Cook scored 12 first half points. Andrew Nembhard added six points and six assists. Drew Timme and Corey Kispert both poured in double figures and Gonzaga shot 61 percent en route to a 49-34 halftime lead. Pepperdine scored 16 points in the first 4:19 of the half and had 18 points in the final 15:41.

With Oumar Ballo still out with a thumb injury, Gonzaga went with a seven-man rotation with a ton of small ball. The Waves had no answers for any of those lineups. Nembhard finished with 17 points and eight assists off the bench. Cook added 15 points and three steals. Timme, Kispert, Joel Ayayi, and Anton Watson all finished in double figures.

In a game where Suggs was limited and Ayayi was quiet until the final minutes, the Zags still put up 97 points on 60 percent shooting. They shot a jaw-dropping 82 percent (28-for-34) inside the arc.

It is really hard to nitpick this performance outside of the first four minutes. The offense was sharing the ball as well as they have all season, the defense locked down for the 25 minutes they needed to, and they won a road game by 20+ points against a Pepperdine team who just beat BYU.

This will be an interesting week for the Zags. Their game on Saturday against Santa Clara has already been postponed. Their game Thursday against LMU might follow suit with the Lions announcing a positive test this morning. Will they find a non-conference opponent to sneak in this week? Will the WCC move around their schedule to give Gonzaga a game or two this week? We will wait and see.

Oh, and shoutout to Anton Watson for covering the 21.5-point spread with this breathtaking dunk. That made some people happy.