Sporting their highest ranking since December of 2008, the sixth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs continue their run through the rest of the West Coast Conference as they entertain the Pepperdine Waves at the McCarthy Athletic Center on Thursday night.
Pepperdine comes in two games under .500 overall (10-12) and five games below that mark in conference play (2-7). The Waves have lost three straight and six of their last seven games, the most recent of which being an 86-78 home verdict versus San Francisco last Saturday. Pepperdine is a very young team, as eight of the 11 players expected to dress for this game are either freshmen or sophomores. Beginning with this contest, the Waves will play five of their final seven regular-season games on the road where they are 4-6 this season.
Gonzaga is riding a four-game win streak entering this fray, the latest of which being a nail-biter as it survived a conference clash at San Diego, 65-63 last weekend. The Bulldogs are now 21-2 on the year, and a perfect 7-0 in WCC play. The win was GU's ninth straight against the Toreros and its 31st in the last 33 meetings between the two teams. The Zags are 10-1 at home this season.
Gonzaga owns a 43-31 lead in the all-time series with Pepperdine, and the Bulldogs have won the last 23 meetings, including a 78-62 road victory in the WCC opener for both teams this year. Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk scored 18 and 16 points, respectively to lead the Bulldogs in that clash, while the Waves were paced by Lorne Jackson and Jordan Baker who combined for 31 points.
The last victory for the Waves in the series was back in 2002 in Malibu.
Despite decent shooting percentages (.451 overall, .367 from 3-point range), Pepperdine averages a lackluster 64 ppg. Defensively, the team allows 66.5 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .414 overall and .353 from beyond the arc. The Waves, who own a +2.0 rebounding margin but are -3.1 in turnover differential, have three double-digit scorers in the form of Jackson (14.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg), Baker (11.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg) and Stacy Davis (10.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg), and it was Jackson who paced the club in the recent loss to San Francisco, tallying 20 points and seven rebounds. Davis put forth a monster effort off the bench, logging a double-double consisting of 18 points and 15 boards, the Waves claiming a 35-27 rebounding advantage and a 16-10 edge in points from the foul line. Both teams shot at least 50 percent from the field, but the Dons were an am incredible 14-of-24 on their 3-point attempts.
Gonzaga comes in with averages of 79.3 ppg for and 61.7 ppg against, giving it the fifth-best scoring margin in the country (+16.9). The team boasts three double-digit scorers, with Olynyk (18.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Harris (15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Kevin Pangos (11.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) all excelling in helping the Bulldogs reach the lofty heights they have this season. Gonzaga is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, which includes a 38 percent showing from beyond the arc, while its foes check in at 39.8 percent overall and 33.3 percent from downtown. The Zags also own positive margins in both rebounding (+7.5) and turnovers (+2.7). Harris was high man for Gonzaga in the narrow win at San Diego last weekend, as he hit 6-of-12 shots from the floor and 5-of-6 at the charity stripe to reach 18 points. He pulled down eight rebounds as well, joining Olynyk for the team-lead in that department. Olynyk tallied 15 points, and Gary Bell, Jr. chipped in 13 for the Bulldogs, who shot 43.9 percent from the field while utilizing an 11-5 edge in points from the foul line along with taking full advantage of 15 Torero turnovers.