Pepperdine comes close, falls to No. 24 Gonzaga
MALIBU, Calif. – Marty Wilson knows it's going to take some time for his team to regularly be among the upper echelon of the West Coast Conference.
On nights such as Saturday, the first-year Pepperdine coach can't help but believe it will happen sooner rather than later. Kevin Pangos and Robert Sacre each scored 15 points, helping No. 24 Gonzaga beat Pepperdine 72-60 — but not before the Waves gave the Bulldogs a scare.
Gonzaga's 15-point lead shrunk to two points midway through the second half before it held on to win its 22nd straight in the series.
"We've told our guys that there is a thin line between the elite in our league and everyone else," Wilson said. "We obviously proved that tonight. We can play with everyone in the league if we're doing all the things we need to do.
"We're not good enough yet to take a night off or have two or three of our guys not play well and still win the game."
Corbin Moore had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Joshua Lowry added 11 points for Pepperdine (8-15, 2-10), which lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
"Our guys are starting to understand what we're trying to do — move the ball and make the right decisions," Wilson said. "So that was a big part of it. When you defend and get stops, you become more confident."
Guy Landry Edi scored 13 points and Elias Harris added nine for Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2 West Coast Conference), which broke out of a 3-point shooting slump to go 7 of 16 from beyond the arc.
"That's a great win for us, for the fact that we put a lot of emotion into that last game and we didn't win," Sacre said. "It was tough, but we responded like champions."
The inexperienced Waves put a rocky first few minutes behind them, shooting 53.6 percent in the second half to make a game out of it.
The Waves trailed by 14 when their shots from the outside started to fall. Nikolas Skouen connected on back-to-back 3-pointers and Lowry later hit a 3 during a 12-0 run that got Pepperdine within 44-42.
But Pepperdine was never able to get any closer than two points.
Pangos stopped the drought with a 3 from the top of the key. After Sam Dower hit a jumper for Gonzaga, Jordan Baker missed two free throws. Pangos answered on the other end with a jumper to make it 54-48.
"They made a bunch of shots and took advantage of a couple defensive miscues by us," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I thought they were the more aggressive team for that 10-minute stretch. And then we were able to kind of get our feet back on the ground and flip the switch. I thought we were the most aggressive team down the stretch."
The Bulldogs entered having shot just 4 of 30 on 3-pointers over their previous two games.
Pepperdine leading scorer Taylor Darby was held to just six points on 2-of-6 shooting. Darby, who was plagued by foul trouble, didn't score his first points of the game until he was fouled while making a jumper with 3:59 to play.
"With him in foul trouble and sitting on the bench for eight, 10 minutes straight, it kind of took him out of rhythm," Wilson said.
The Bulldogs wasted little time building a double-digit lead in the opening minutes. They hit five of their first six shots and all three 3-pointers.
Pangos, Gary Bell and Edi all connected from distance as Gonzaga went ahead 17-5. The Bulldogs then turned to a full-court press that kept the Waves off balance.
Despite suddenly going cold from the outside, the Bulldogs were able to keep building the lead. Harris had a short hook in the lane, Sacre made two free throws and Mathis Moenninghoff made an acrobatic put back during a 6-0 run that put his team up 31-18.
Pepperdine, which went 16½ minutes without a free throw to start the game, shot 30 percent in the first half. Gonzaga led 35-21 at the break.
Pepperdine's last win in the series came on Jan. 18, 2002.
"I didn't want to end the winning streak," Edi said. "We had come in here and get the win, absolutely. We couldn't lose this game."