Malibu, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pepperdine Waves play host to one of the highest ranked teams to ever appear at Firestone Fieldhouse, as they entertain No. 3 Gonzaga in a West Coast Conference clash on Thursday night.
Gonzaga has pretty much had its way with the opposition in the first two months of the season, logging a 16-1 mark, which includes a perfect 5-0 league ledger. The Bulldogs have won nine in a row since suffering their lone setback at Arizona on Dec. 6. Their most recent triumph occurred at home last Saturday, as they routed Santa Clara in a 79-57 final. The Zags are 5-1 in true road games this season.
Pepperdine is a solid 11-5 on the season, and that includes wins in four of its first five WCC matchups. The Waves have won three straight, and they are coming off their first weekend road sweep in conference play since 2002 after claiming victory at BYU (67-61) and San Diego (59-47) recently. The team's 4-1 start to WCC play is its best in 13 years.
Gonzaga owns a 46-31 lead in the all-time series with Pepperdine, reaching that point by winning 41 of the last 46 meetings. The Waves' last win in the series came at home in an 88-79 final on Jan. 18, 2002.
Przemek Karnowski (18 points, nine rebounds) and Domantas Sabonis (11 points, nine rebounds) each nearly had a double-double, and three others scored in double figures as well in Gonzaga's recent win over Santa Clara. The Bulldogs shot 53.4 percent from the field, draining 5-of-11 3-point tries and 12-of-15 free throws, while allowing the Broncos just 35.2 percent success on their total shots. The Zags wound up with a 41-26 advantage on the glass, and they committed only six turnovers. Kyle Wiltjer tallied 16 points, Kevin Pangos had 13, and Byron Wesley chipped in with 11 for the winning side.
Wiltjer continues to pace the Bulldogs this season, netting 16.4 ppg, while Pangos (12.5 ppg), Wesley (11.6 ppg) and Karnowski (11.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) average double digits as well. The team as a whole is shooting the lights out (.528 overall, .399 3-PT, .730 free-throw line) in putting up a robust 82.6 ppg. Defensively, Gonzaga has been on point as well, yielding just 61 ppg, with foes shooting a meager 38.4 percent from the floor overall. A massive +10.2 rebounding margin has certainly helped, as has the fact that the Zags goad the opposition into 13 turnovers per outing, while being guilty of only 10 tpg themselves.
Pepperdine's Stacey Davis hit for 18 points as the only player for either side to reach double in the recent bout with San Diego. The Waves made good on 44.4 percent of their field goal attempts, despite missing the mark on eight of their 10 3-point tries, but they claimed a 44-31 rebounding advantage, while holding the Toreros to 29.7 percent field goal efficiency. A 17-4 edge in points from the foul line also played an integral role in Pepperdine keeping the good times going, as did the fact that it committed a mere six turnovers while forcing USD into 15.
Davis has been the Waves' best player all season, as he averages 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Jett Raines is netting 10.6 ppg, and three others put up at least 8.1 ppg for a squad that musters 67.2 ppg while permitting only 61.0 ppg. Pepperdine is the top team in the nation when it comes to defending the 3-point shot (.237), and it is also among the national leaders in free-throw percentage (.758)