No. 6 Gonzaga (21-2, 8-0) hosts Pepperine (10-12, 2-7) Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game will be televised on Root Sports.
The Stats - When these teams met in their WCC opener on January 3rd Pepperdine's inability to knock down three-pointers and take care of the ball ultimately cost them. The Waves held an eight-point lead in the first half, but Gonzaga rallied for a four-point advantage at the break, before leaving Pepperdine in their wake to the tune of a 78-62 victory. Mark Few's club held Pepperdine to 2-for-12 shooting from deep, which even for a team that averages just 4.8 made threes in WCC play is a poor outing. They also have a habit of committing turnovers, averaging 2.89 more than their opponents in 11 league contests. Against Gonzaga they coughed it up 14 times (compared to 12 assists), which turned into 21 points for GU. Also, Pepperdine is 0-10 when allowing 67 points or more. That's proven to be a very reachable number for the Zags.
The Stars - Lorne Jackson still paces the Waves offensively, as he did with 16 points off the bench on January 3rd. In that game he also turned it over on four occasions. The senior guard has claimed at least a share of top-scoring honors for Pepperdine in 10 of their 22 games, and is now averaging 14.3 points per game. Jordan Baker is second at 11.7, including a 15-point outing against the Zags. In that game Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk tallied 34 of the Zags 78 points. It will be interesting to see how teams defend GU the second time around. If their focus is on limiting the interior guys, Gary Bell Jr. could continue his hot streak. He used five threes to hang 15 on LMU, before posting an efficient 13 points at USD. It's pick your poison with the Zags. Last week no one put up any gaudy numbers. Instead it was their variety that caused fits. Any number of players could set the tone, but it wouldn't be a shock to see Harris and Bell lead the charge again.
The Storylines - Pepperdine's last win in Spokane came back in 1998. Since then they've suffered 14 straight losses in road games against the Bulldogs. In total, Gonzaga has bested the Waves on 23 consecutive occasions, with wins in 38 of the last 43. The Waves did give GU some fits in the first half of their first meeting. It will be interesting to see which team that experience favors. Will Pepperdine be better prepared to hang with GU down the stretch? Or will the Zags be clued in on how to take charge against the Waves, and do so right out of the gates?