So, how do you top the most impressive, complete victory of the season? Take an hour or so cruise (traffic dependent) up the Pacific Coast Highway and do the same thing to Pepperdine.
The Zags are not only sent a message to LMU, but to the rest of the WCC and hopefully the national press; when this team is firing on all cylinders, they can beat anyone.
Of course, Pepperdine is not just anyone, they are about 80 places lower than LMU in KenPom and have firmly established themselves as the worst team in the WCC. Really the only question tomorrow is can Gonzaga keep-up the impressive, aggressive play they displayed against LMU.
Meet the opponent
Pepperdine Waves, 9-18 (2-11 WCC), KenPom #173
Here’s something I didn’t think I’d write this conference season, Pepperdine is coming off two wins in its last three games. First was the improbable win against Portland with .6 seconds left. Next BYU 92-80, a game the Waves led the entire second half.
Waves leading scorer Maxwell Lewis (17.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg), is a guaranteed first-round pick in this summer’s NBA draft. He’s projected as high as the forth pick. 6’11” Forward Jevon Porter (7.3 rpg) is the leading rebounder and little brother of NBA star Michael Porter Jr. He’s the reigning WCC Freshman of the Week for his 30 point, 10 rebound performance against BYU.
Sophomore Mike Mitchell (4.9 apg) leads the team in assists while 6’5” shooting guard Houston Mallette (13.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg and 1 steal per game) is an excellent all-around player. Zag fans will recognize senior Jan Zidek, the 6’9” Czech started every game last season but has come off the bench every game this year.
I hate to pile-on Lorenzo Romar (no I don’t), but he’s always done less with more than any consistently employed coach in nation.
What to watch out for
Move up the draft boards Julian
Depending on which box score you believe, Julian Strawther either dropped 28 or 30 points against LMU last night. Either way, he was incredibly impressive. He was the team’s leading scorer for the second consecutive game and may have finally emerged as a consistent second scoring option for the team.
His defense has been impressive the last several games and he should be matched up Maxwell Lewis for most of the contest. Keeping with the way he’s been playing, Julian could conceivably outplay Lewis on both ends of the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if several NBA scouts were in attendance tomorrow giving Julian has a golden opportunity to impress and improve his draft stock.
A big night for Timme
I’ve never been one to believe the Gonzaga offense stalls because they ball is forced into Drew Timme, I always thought the ball was forced into Timme when the rest of the offense stalled. Gonzaga proved last night that when the guards perform well, the team is essentially unbeatable and a big night from Timme isn’t needed. This is a mutually beneficial situation for the team and Timme. When perimeter play is solid, it’s difficult to double-team Timme.
If you remember the New Year’s Eve Pepperdine game at the Kennel, Romar insisted on playing Timme one-on-one and he torched them for 35 points. Now, add Strawther becoming a high-level scoring option and the rest of the guards performing well, Drew should once again have single coverage all night. He may not need to score 35, but he’ll probably be able to do so.
Continue to take care of the ball
Remember everyone’s early season concerns about Gonzaga’s turnover numbers being in the 20s? Last night the Zags only eight turnovers and most of those occurred in the garbage-time second half. In fact, GU has had single digit turnover totals in five of the last eight games.
Tomorrow night’s game could be a strengths convergence for a Gonzaga team that’s much-improved taking care of the ball. Pepperdine is above average in turnover’s, below average defensively and plays at one of the fastest paces in the nation.
Gonzaga will have another chance to dominate the points off turnovers numbers again, have 75 or more possessions and hang another 100. It should be fun to watch.