Preview: No. 2 Gonzaga seeks 36th straight win vs. Pepperdine

Feb 21, 2019, 12:29 PM
Gonzaga F Rui Hachimura averages 20.3 points and has notched 16 20-point performances. (AP)...
Gonzaga F Rui Hachimura averages 20.3 points and has notched 16 20-point performances. (AP)

A matchup with Pepperdine almost equates to Guaranteed Win Night for second-ranked Gonzaga.

Gonzaga up to No. 2, Duke reclaims No. 1 in AP Top 25 poll

The Bulldogs seek their 36th consecutive overall victory against the Waves – and 21st straight home win – when the teams meet on Thursday in West Coast Conference play at Spokane, Wash.

Pepperdine last knocked off Gonzaga on Jan. 18, 2002 and last prevailed in Spokane on Feb. 19, 1998.

Showing up is the only option, so the Waves (12-15, 5-8 WCC) will take another swing at halting the longtime skid.

“We have to play our brand of basketball for us to get a win at Gonzaga,” sophomore guard Colbey Ross told reporters. “Do what we do defensively and just compete. I feel like at the end of the day if we compete, we will have a chance in any game we play.”

Pepperdine has dropped four of its last five games as it attempts to post a monumental upset of the Bulldogs (25-2, 12-0). The Waves also are just 2-10 on the road.

The odds are low with Gonzaga boasting the nation’s longest winning streak of 16 games. The Bulldogs also have whipped six conference foes by 30 or more points and are closing in on their seventh straight WCC regular-season crown.

But Gonzaga’s last two wins were by an average of just 12.5 points. In fact, last Saturday’s 79-67 road win at San Diego represents the Bulldogs’ lowest margin of victory (12) in WCC play this season.

“They’re just tough, seniors, strong guys, very competitive, and they do a good job of being in the gaps and making our guys earn it,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the Toreros putting up a tough fight.

Senior point guard Josh Perkins recorded 15 points and nine assists against San Diego and is eight assists shy of passing school legend Matt Santangelo (668 from 1996-2000) for most in school history.

Perkins (10.5 points, 6.8 assists) is one of four Bulldogs scoring in double digits.

Junior forward Rui Hachimura averages a team-best 20.3 points and has notched 16 20-point performances. He scored 16 of his 22 points against San Diego in the second half after a lackluster start.

“He started playing harder and being more assertive and not settling,” Few told reporters. “He’s really good when he does that.”

Power forward Brandon Clarke has dominated in the interior with a 16.7 average, and he leads the squad in both rebounding (8.2) and blocked shots (82). Sophomore shooting guard Zach Norvell Jr. (15.6 scoring average) had 18 points against the Toreros and has reached double digits in 11 consecutive contests.

Deciding how to defend the quartet is one of the many challenges for the Waves, who are coming off a 72-65 road loss against Saint Mary’s.

Pepperdine will be without junior forward Kameron Edwards (foot) for the third straight game. Edwards averages 16.9 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds, and his absence represents a huge blow as the Waves try to match up against Clarke.

Ross has excelled with team-best averages of 18.8 points and 7.3 assists and has scored 20 or more points on 13 occasions. Ross’ 197 assists are third-most on the Waves’ single-season list, and he already ranks seventh on the career chart with 376.

Senior guard Eric Cooper Jr. is averaging 11.3 points, and his 69 3-pointers rank eighth on Pepperdine’s single-season list.

First-year Waves coach Lorenzo Romar and Few are meeting for the first time as WCC head coaches. Romar and Few had an adversarial relationship when the former was the coach at Washington.

– Field Level Media

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Preview: No. 2 Gonzaga seeks 36th straight win vs. Pepperdine