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Gonzaga v. Pepperdine Game Preview

A trip to Malibu is always welcome.

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

The Gonzaga Bulldogs travel south to Malibu this weekend to take on the Pepperdine Waves in their only WCC game of the week.

The Waves took the Zags took the brink in a 75-70 win for Gonzaga back on January 4 in the Kennel. Killian Tillie’s block of Colbey Ross’s game tying three-point attempt in the dying seconds sealed a victory.

Meet the opponent

Pepperdine Waves, 14-12, KenPom #141

Colbey Ross was a menace in the first game, playing all 40 minutes and finishing the evening with 24 points and 10 assists, though he did also have 10 turnovers as Gonzaga directed all its defensive pressure at him. That’s the plan to topple the Waves, as Ross is the straw that stirs the drink for Lorenzo Romar’s squad.

That’s not to say Ross is the only threat on Pepperdine’s roster, as the Waves feature four starters who average double figure scoring. The Edwards brothers are strong rebounders, pose a dynamic 1-2 punch on the wings, and can take defenders into the post which makes them matchup problems for many squads. Junior transfer Skylar Chavez is averaging 11.1 ppg and 40% 3PT% to help spread the floor for the Waves.

Freshman forward Jan Zidek came off the bench to score 11 points with a trio of 3-pointers in the first game, but has not been able to suit up for the Waves since.

At 7-5 in WCC play, Pepperdine has been jostling for position in the mid-table battle within the conference to take the title of Best of the Rest beneath the trio of Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s.

What to watch out for

Avoiding a letdown

With just one game this week, and coming off a comprehensive beatdown of Saint Mary’s in Moraga, the biggest concern for Mark Few may be ensuring that his team doesn’t come out flat. The Waves will feel emboldened after their near-miss in Spokane last month, and will be hopeful that they can finish the job this time around. The Zags will need to be dialed in from the outset and play with the same energy and focus that they showed last weekend.

Controlling Colbey Ross

This is easier said than done for one of the most underrated point guards in America. Gonzaga did well in forcing Ross into 10 turnovers in Round 1, but he still showed how difficult a cover he can be for Ryan Woolridge and the rest of the backcourt with his ability to penetrate and the vision to create prime scoring opportunities for his teammates.

Taking advantage of Pepperdine’s defense

The Waves are not a strong defense team (shocker for a Lorenzo Romar coached squad, I know). However, Gonzaga made them look pretty good the last time around with a slew of sloppy turnovers and poor shooting from the arc. Pepperdine will give up plenty of open looks from the three-point line as its defensive communication and rotations are a little suspect, and the Zags will need to take advantage to make this a comfortable game.