The Bulldogs hit the road to face off against Pepperdine whose beautiful Malibu campus can’t save it from the ugly season in which its currently mired.
Pepperdine is coming off its largest margin of victory this season in a 78-60 win over Portland. However, the good times have been few and far between for the Waves who started the year 3-0, but have only managed to go 3-15 since. Over that stretch, the Waves suffered losing streaks of 9 and 5 games.
Meet the opponent
Pepperdine Waves, 6-15, KenPom #295
Every head coach in the country will tell you that health is one of the biggest keys to having a productive season. Unfortunately for Pepperdine, they have been unable to keep players out of the training room, having lost a reported 61 player games due to injury or illness this season.
The two big losses were expected starters Kameron Edwards (WCC All-Freshman last season) and senior guard Amadi Udenyi. Edwards hasn’t played a single game this year after breaking his jaw in a preseason scrimmage. Udenyi was lost for the season following an achilles tear in November.
Following the graduation of the program’s all-time leading scorer in Stacy Davis, the Waves were probably looking at a transition season anyway but the injuries certainly haven’t helped. But, every team should expect to deal with injuries over the course of the season and find a way to cope. Pepperdine has not.
What to watch out for
The 3-point line
Pepperdine is one of the worst teams in the country at defending the 3-point line. After holding teams to a respectable 32.6% rate from the arc last season, the Waves are allowing an obscene 42.7% clip and currently ranked 350th in the country in opponent 3PT%. The Zags have struggled mightily from the arc in recent games, shooting no better than 33.3% from distance in the last 4 games. Perhaps Pepperdine’s woeful defense can be the catalyst to getting their long-distance shooting back on track.
Mark Few’s rotation
Gonzaga opted to roll with the 7-man rotation on Thursday night against San Diego following the loss of Killian Tillie to injury. It’s not unreasonable to think that Mark Few could use these games against the WCC’s cellar-dwellers to get valuable developmental minutes for guys like Rui Hachimura, Jeremy Jones and Bryan Alberts. But, it seems that Few is inclined to simply shorten the rotation and re-allocate Tillie’s minutes amongst the remaining frontcourt trio of Zach Collins, Przemek Karnowski, and Johnathan Williams. It’s hard to tell how long Tillie will be out, but this could be a missed opportunity to prepare the fringe players for more meaningful roles in the postseason should any more injuries occur.
It’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a time Pepperdine had the upper-hand in this series despite Gonzaga holding a commanding 52-31 all-time record. Pepperdine beat Gonzaga in 26 of their first 31 games, but have not beat the Zags since 2002. Gonzaga will hope to stretch its win streak over Pepperdine to 33 consecutive games with a victory at Firestone Fieldhouse this weekend.
- Time: 7:00pm PT
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: Gonzaga IMG Radio Network
- Online: WatchESPN