GAME NOTES: Two of the top teams in the West Coast Conference get together on Thursday night, as the Gonzaga Bulldogs challenge the Pepperdine Waves at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Gonzaga had been rolling along with a 14-2 mark, including 4-0 in conference, when it took to the road to tangle with the Portland Pilots last Thursday. The Bulldogs stumbled in that game, 82-73, and were subsequently dropped from the AP Poll this week. This bout marks only the Zags' third true road test of the season (1-1), and it is the middle leg of a three-game road trek for coach Mark Few's club.
Pepperdine brings an 11-7 overall record, which includes a 4-2 mark in WCC play into this tussle. The team's league ledger is it best after six games since 2004, and it is coming off a 69-65 win at San Diego last Saturday, which put the brakes on a two-game slide. The Waves are 5-2 at home this season, and this is their first performance in front of the Malibu faithful in 2014, as they recently concluded a four-game road trip.
Gonzaga leads the all-time series with Pepperdine, 44-31, reaching that point by winning the last 24 meetings. The Waves' last win over the Bulldogs was at home on Jan. 18, 2002 in an 88-79 final. The Zags have won 11 straight at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Defensive lapses plagued the Bulldogs in their loss at Portland last week, as the Pilots drained 51.9 percent of their field goal attempts, including 8- of-14 3-point attempts. Gonzaga meanwhile, hit 44.8 percent of its total shots, missing 11 of its 15 long-range launches along the way, and it was outscored at the foul line, 20-17. Sam Dower, who had been battling an injury recently, led the Zags with 14 points, as he went 7-of-13 from the floor, while Kevin Pangos tacked on 12, and Przemek Karnowski and Gerard Coleman had 11 apiece. Pangos and Kyle Dranginis each dished out six assists.
Despite suffering a defeat in their last game, the Bulldogs are one of the more potent offensive teams around, averaging 82.3 ppg in hitting 51.5 of their field goal attempts, which includes a 43.5 percent effort from beyond the arc -- both of which rank the team No. 2 in the nation. The team is no slouch on defense either, yielding 67.5 ppg with foes shooting just 39.8 percent from the floor overall, and 32.4 percent from long range. Pangos, Dower, Gary Bell, Jr. and Karnowski are all averaging double digits in the scoring column, although injuries to both Dower and Bell, Jr. have hampered their ability to elevate their games even further.
Stacy Davis poured in 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Pepperdine to its recent win at San Diego, as the team made good on 7-of-15 3-point attempts while going 20-of-27 at the free-throw line. Jeremy Major (12 points, five assists) was the only other player to reach double figures for the Waves, who allowed San Diego to shoot 54.8 percent from the field, but who turned 17 Torero turnovers into 22 points.
Davis paces the team with 15.5 ppg, while Brendan Lane is hot on his heels with 15.0 ppg. Both players are also active on the boards, hauling down a combined 16.1 rpg, helping the team log a +1.5 rebounding margin for the season. Major rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 11.7 ppg, although Malcolm Brooks is close to joining the ranks as he nets 9.6 ppg. Major is the team's primary playmaker as well, having handed out 80 assists. Pepperdine is averaging nearly the same number of points as it allows (72.7 to 71.1 ppg), and the team is shooting 47.3 percent from the field, which includes a 38.4 percent showing from beyond the arc.
As well as Pepperdine has played at times this season, Gonzaga is the better team and would love nothing more than to prove that the loss to Portland was little more than a blip on the radar.
Game Date and Time