(24) Gonzaga (17-4) at Pepperdine (8-14)
Saturday, February 4th, 10:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Firestone Fieldhouse (3,104) -- Malibu, California. Television: ROOT-NW, Local. Home Record: Gonzaga 11-1, Pepperdine 5-5. Away Record: Gonzaga 3-3, Pepperdine 3-8. Neutral Record: Gonzaga 3-0, Pepperdine 0-1. Conference Record: Gonzaga 7-2, Pepperdine 2-9. Series Record: Gonzaga leads, 41-31.
GAME NOTES: West Coast Conference foes meet in Malibu tonight, as the 24th- ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs pay a visit to the Pepperdine Waves.
Gonzaga was recently re-admitted into the AP Top-25 after winning four in a row from January 14-26, but the team is likely to fall out of the next poll after suffering an 83-73 loss at BYU on Thursday night. Despite that setback, the Bulldogs are enjoying another stellar campaign, as they come into this clash at 17-4 overall and 7-2 in conference. They have proven to be mortal on the road though, going 3-3 to this point in the season, and they currently trail first-place Saint Mary's-CA by two games in the WCC standings.
At the other end of the spectrum sits Pepperdine, a team that has won just eight of its 22 games this season, and only two of its 11 WCC bouts. The Waves have only one victory in 2012, having lost nine of their last 10, with the only win coming last Saturday in a 74-62 decision against visiting Santa Clara. Pepperdine is an even 5-5 at home this season, and prior to last week's win over the Broncos, the team had lost three straight in front of the Firestone Fieldhouse faithful.
This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams, with Gonzaga easily winning the January 5 encounter in Spokane, 73-45. As a result, the Zags own a 41-31 lead in the all-time series, and they have won each of the last 21 matchups. The Waves' last win over the Bulldogs was at home in 2002.
Gonzaga's first-ever trip to Provo, Utah to face BYU didn't go quite according to plan, as the Bulldogs shot just 3-of-19 from three-point range and committed 19 turnovers in what turned out to be a double-digit loss. Perimeter shooting has been a problem for the Zags recently, as in addition to the poor showing against the Cougars, they went just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc against Portland in their previous outing. For the season however, the team is shooting 36.2 percent from long range. Elias Harris (13.3ppg, 7.9 rpg) heads a list of four players averaging double figures in scoring for Gonzaga, which puts up 73.8 ppg while allowing 63.7 ppg. With Harris leading the way, the Bulldogs are +6.6 in rebounding margin, coming up with more than 37 rpg. Sam Dower came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points in the loss at BYU, while Gary Bell, Jr. added 14 points, Marquise Carter had 13 and Robert Sacre chipped in with 11. Bell scored 15 points to lead Gonzaga to its blowout win over Pepperdine last month, while Kevin Pangos and Sacre added 11 points apiece.
Pepperdine is one of the worst scoring teams in the country, as it averages just 59.0 ppg in hitting 39.3 percent of its field goal attempts and 32.5 percent of its three-point tries. The Waves have done a solid job on the glass, laying claim to a +3.2 rebounding margin, but they are -3.1 in turnover differential. They have been decent at the defensive end, yielding 63.8 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 42.1 percent overall and 34.0 percent from beyond the arc, but again, offensive ineptitude has been the team's biggest problem. There is only one double-digit scorer on the roster, but even Taylor Darby's 12.1 ppg on 47.2 percent field goal efficiency isn't going to scare anyone. Darby poured in 18 points and Joshua Lowery added 11 more, but it wasn't enough as Pepperdine fell at Loyola Marymount earlier this week in a 67-57 final. The Waves made good on only 38.2 percent of their total shots, missing 13 of their 15 three-point attempts along the way.
The Waves haven't beaten a ranked opponent since 1994, and with both teams clearly heading in different directions, don't expect that dubious streak to end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gonzaga 78, Pepperdine 53
02/04 10:34:00 ET
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