The Gonzaga Bulldogs are undefeated in West Coast Conference play and ranked No. 6 in the country with a 21-2 record. However, they’re coming off a major scare in their last game, narrowly escaping the San Diego Toreros home gym with a 65-63 win after scoring just one basket in the final 2:20 on Saturday. With most of a week to prepare for their next game, the Bulldogs will be looking to make a statement in their game tonight against the Pepperdine Waves.
It took a late basket from David Stockton and a defensive stand from Elias Harris at the buzzer to escape what should have been an easy win for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs came into the game with an eight-game winning streak over San Diego, losers of three-straight overall, but struggled to put them away. Harris admitted the Toreros “pushed us around,” and gave them a hard time on the boards. They were often more physical than the bigger and stronger Gonzaga, something Harris called “not acceptable.”
They’ll face a similar foe tonight in Pepperdine. The Zags have a 23-game winning streak against the Waves coming into tonight and Pepperdine is the middle of a slide this season, losing three straight coming into this game and six of their last seven. However, Gonzaga would be foolish to overlook them after their scare in San Diego and need to come out focused from the opening tip to regain their swagger over the lower tier of the WCC.
Gonzaga hasn’t lost to Pepperdine at home since February 19, 1998, a winning streak that spans 14 games. They struggled, however, in the first meeting this season back on January 3. On the road, the Bulldogs stumbled to an early 14-6 deficit and shot a season-low 43.4 percent from the field. They turned it around in the second half, shooting 56.0 percent after the break and finished the game 25-of-29 from the free throw line to pull away and win easily, 78-62.
The team can’t afford to struggle with teams they should handle easily, however, as they ramp up towards the NCAA Tournament. The home stretch of conference play should be the time for this Zags team to be hitting their stride and finding their rhythm to make a deep run in March, not escaping with wins against teams that may not make the NIT.
Pepperdine does not have the talent to hang with the Zags, and they’re unfortunate to be caught in the crosshairs of a dominant team looking to make a statement in Spokane tonight.