Gonzaga Beats Pepperdine 78-76 in a Nailbiter


On January 15, Gonzaga took down the Pepperdine waves 78-76.  This was Mark Few’s 200th WCC win, but it came in a bit of an unusual fashion.  This game was closer than most expected it to be.  It goes to show how unpredictable WCC play can be.

Jan 15, 2015; Malibu, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) attempts a shot defended by Pepperdine Waves forward Jett Raines (45) during the second half at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Gonzaga Bulldogs won 78-76. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Zags came out strong in the first half.  They led at halftime 40-31.  The only time that Pepperdine ever led in this game was when they were up 2-0 until the 19:13 mark in the first half.  It looked like the Zags were going to run away with the game after halftime, but the Waves had other ideas.  They kept the game close for the whole second half.  As soon as the Zags would begin to pull away even a little bit the Waves would have an answer.  This was often a one point game.

Stacy Davis and Jett Raines ran the show for the Waves.  Davis, who started on the bench, had 21 points, seven rebounds, and two steals.  Raines finished with 22 points and six rebounds.  It seemed like these two could not miss in the second half.  Guard, Jeremy Major had a game high nine assists as well as eight points.  The excellent play from these three players gave the Waves a chance to keep the game close.

On the Gonzaga side, Kyle Wiltjer had another strong scoring outburst.

He finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.  Coming off the bench, Domantas Sabonis had 31 minutes and finished with 18 points on 9-9 shooting.  He also added 12 rebounds.  This was especially important since Przemek Kanowski had some foul trouble, which limited his playing time.  The Zags went 6-12 from three point range, which was helpful since the game was so close.

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The most prominent stat for Gonzaga in this game was horrible free throw shooting.  They shot 42.4% on 14-33 shooting.  This number was much lower for most of the game, but luckily for the Zags it went up once the Waves started intentionally fouling Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer in the waning moments of the game.  Nonetheless, this number has to improve.  The Zags gave Pepperdine every opportunity to win the game, but in the end Gonzaga had just enough to pull it out.

Pepperdine has a very young team.  They don’t have any seniors on the roster and they are loaded with talent.  I expect them to continue to have a good season.  Because of their youth they will continue to be a good team for years to come.  The Zags played well, but need to improve their free throw shooting and avoid foul trouble.  These could be major problems for them down the road.