No. 3 Gonzaga could lead Top 25 after thumping Pepperdine
MALIBU, Calif. (AP) Gonzaga sure tried to present itself as the top team in the country Saturday night.
Now to see if they’ve convinced the voters.
The No. 3 Bulldogs are the last unbeaten team in the country and looked every bit of it in a dominant 96-49 victory over outmanned Pepperdine.
Gonzaga pushed its record to 22-0 (10-0 West Coast Conference), and after No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Kansas both lost last week, it could lead the AP Top 25 for only the second time in school history.
”It would nice to be recognized for the school, for the program, even for Spokane,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ”We’re just focused on going out next Thursday night and playing better than we did tonight, which will be hard to do.”
The Bulldogs completely controlled Pepperdine (6-16, 2-8 West Coast Conference), using a commanding height advantage to jump out to 27-8 lead and never looking back.
Center Przemek Karnowski, at 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, had six inches and at least 50 pounds on his defenders. He connected on 8 of 11 shots to lead the Bulldogs with 16 points. Zach Collins, a 7-footer, had 14 points and six rebounds.
The inside game opened things up for the guards, too, with Silas Meson hitting all three of his 3s to finish with 15 points.
”They set the tone very early on in the game with their size,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. ”They pounded the ball inside and made easy opportunities for themselves. They are a matchup problem for most teams in the country with their size and physicality.”
The Bulldogs also play excellent defense. They held the Waves to 30.2 percent shooting and six assists while forcing 13 turnovers.
”I liked our defense a lot tonight,” Karnowski said. ”I thought it was really good. I thought our rebounding was better.”
The Bulldogs outrebounded the Waves 44-32.
The 22 consecutive victories matches Gonzaga’s longest winning streak.
”They’re for real,” Pepperdine forward Chris Reyes said. ”They know how to play together. And they’re playing great right now.”
Pepperdine does boast the WCC’s leading scorer in Lamond Murray Jr. (20.8 per game), but Gonzaga held him to 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Guard Jeremy Major shot the same and led Pepperdine with 13 points.
”I thought we were good for the full 40 (minutes),” Few said. ”We defended well. Murray is a heck of a player. He’s a guy who’s going to make some money at this game next year. We did a great job on him.”
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have dominated the Waves for the past 15 years. They have now beaten Pepperdine 33 consecutive times. Gonzaga was last ranked No. 1 in 2013.
Pepperdine: The Waves played without two regular starters and could only suit up nine scholarship players.
Gonzaga is not only winning, but doing it easily. The Bulldogs have not trailed once in their last 11 consecutive halves. They entered the game second in the nation in scoring margin (22.7) and then beat Pepperdine by 47.
Gonzaga is no guarantee to move up to No. 1. Kansas could have redeemed itself in the eyes of some voters with its 79-73 comeback win over No.4 Kentucky Saturday.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs will meet conference rival BYU for the first time this season when they play at the Cougars on Thursday.
Pepperdine: The Waves will attempt to rebound Thursday when they travel to the University of San Francisco.