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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Pepperdine


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

Gonzaga continues to have all the answers against Pepperdine. It’s truly absurd to win 44 straight games against any team, and yet, here we are. For win no. 44, the Zags did it in entertaining style as the offense has seemingly found its stride in the last few weeks. Long may it continue:

  1. Defense was not on the agenda to close out the year. That ultimately worked to Gonzaga’s favor as the Waves simply didn’t have the juice to keep up with the Zags in a shootout. It almost felt like the Zags induced Pepperdine into playing a wide-open game with no cares given to defense.
  2. Pepperdine’s early strategy to allow Drew Timme to play one-on-one was certainly a choice. A very bad choice. Giving Timme the time and space to find his rhythm (22 points in the first half) is a recipe for a long afternoon. For his part, Timme has never looked better and if his current form continues (and there’s no reason to think it won’t), he’s going to end the season as Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer.
  3. I get irrationally annoyed every time I think about how many times Lorenzo Romar has squandered good talent. Pepperdine has the talent on its roster to be much better than a 7-7 team. You saw that talent flash early. Maxwell Lewis is a legitimate NBA prospect, but he’s not a one-man show. Lewis is surrounded by really good players, as evidenced by Pepperdine making its run midway through the first half without Lewis on the floor due to foul trouble. Yet, there are no illusions that the Waves will reach their ceiling and that is solely due to their coaching.
  4. I love the transition 3s that Gonzaga always looks to set up with the lead ballhandler driving down the wing and then hitting the trailer with a shovel pass while naturally screening the defender. Gonzaga’s wings have feasted with this little two-man game for years.
  5. Ben Gregg’s confidence has risen faster than interest rates over the last few months. I’m excited to see where he takes his game during WCC play. He just has to harness his energy and some of the overzealous fouls/mistakes that occur because of his youth.
  6. The separator between these two teams was transition basketball. Gonzaga’s 20-3 advantage in fast break points in the first half essentially equaled Gonzaga’s lead at halftime. Pepperdine likes to play uptempo basketball, but they don’t do it nearly as well as Gonzaga and that played into the hands of the Zags in this game.
  7. This was a tough outing for Nolan Hickman. The first month of the season was his learning curve, but now the expectation/demand is consistency on a nightly basis. The staff kept him on a short leash in this game (14 minutes, 4 turnovers, 0-5 FG) to drive that point home as they now push him to the next stage of his development.
  8. This is your weekly reminder that all Anton Watson does on the floor is make winning plays. Maybe it’s because we’re about to flip the calendar to a new year so I’m feeling sentimental, but let’s make sure to enjoy watching Watson do his thing for the last few months that he’s here.
  9. Pepperdine’s second half zone defense will make good teaching tape on what an ineffective zone defense looks like.
  10. Watching Drew Timme go nuts from the bench when a teammate makes a positive play on the floor is almost as fun as watching him play. His joy is something to aspire to.