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Gonzaga Starts WCC Play With a Dominate Victory Over Pepperdine at the Spokane Arena, 86-60

The road to a West Coast Conference title has just begun, get comfortable.

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

It was a sellout in the Spokane Arena for the 1st annual Community Cancer Fund Classic and the Zags didn’t disappoint. It was also Gonzaga’s 46th straight win over Pepperdine which ranks as the 2nd longest streak (current and all time) against a single opponent in college basketball history. A very cool part of history to be apart of.

This special matchup in downtown Spokane honored the 1998-1999 Elite Eight team for alumni weekend. This was the squad that started it all, what made Gonzaga what it is today.

Jevon Porter (younger brother of Michael Porter Jr.) has been battling a right knee injury that he suffered in the offseason but was put in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Lorenzo Romar knows that he needs to all his best talent out there when he goes up against the Zags.

The three-headed monster of Michael Ajayi (1st leading scorer in the WCC), Houston Mallette (2nd leading scorer in the WCC), and Jevon Porter struggled mightily from the floor. The trio for the Waves may have scored 35 of the 60 total points but on 8-36 FG and 5-13 3PT. That was mostly due to the strong perimeter defense that the Zags enforced all night long.

The biggest sign of positivity for the Zags coming out of this victory has to be the three-point shooting performance. Once Dusty Stromer buried his first three-pointer since getting benched against San Diego State, you could tell it was on. It seem like forever since the Zags shot anywhere near 40% from deep and against the Waves, they put in 8-19 3PT for 42.1 3PT%. Even Ryan Nembhard, who has missed his last 15 three-point attempts dating back to December 5th, went for 10 points on 2-3 3PT to go along with his 7 assists and 2 steals. Is this going to be a normal occurrence of what is to come in league play? I sure hope so. Ryan Nembhard needed a game like that for his shooting confidence going forward.

Graham Ike is kicking of his West Coast Conference Player of the Year campaign with a bang. His dominant post play on the low block led him to finishing with 20 points on 8-10 FG to go along with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. This was Ike’s 3rd straight game with 20+ points. He’s looking more and more comfortable as the season goes along. I expect him to absolutely feast against the WCC competition.

Nolan Hickman has proven he’s one of the best and most reliable three-point shooter for the Zags along with Anton Watson (15 points on 6-12 FG and 1-3 3PT, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block). I want either of the two taking that last shot with the game on the line. Against the Waves, Hickman scored 14 points on an amazing 4-5 3PT with his 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. He was locked in from the start out on the perimeter.

One last note as Jun Seok Yeo was given the first substitution of the game coming in the first half. He did struggle but that’s not the point because this guy needs reps and Gonzaga needs more able bodies to put out there. A sign of what the future holds?

The play from the team as a whole just feel more structured and under control against Pepperdine. Did it have to do with the opponent? Probably but you take the positives wherever you can find them nowadays. A quick turnaround as alumni weekend carries on Saturday with Gonzaga welcoming Steve Lavin and San Diego into the Kennel on ESPN+ at 6PM PT. And some new yet throwback threads being pulled out for the Zags? Yes, please.

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho