Fourth-ranked Gonzaga looks to defeat Pepperdine for the 42nd consecutive time when the two teams open West Coast Conference play on Saturday night at Spokane, Wash.
The Waves have lost 23 consecutive times in Spokane as part of that dubious skid. Pepperdine’s last road win in the series was a 65-64 triumph on Feb. 19, 1998, and its most recent victory anywhere against the Bulldogs was an 88-79 home win on Jan. 18, 2002.
Gonzaga (11-2) is 45-2 against the Waves (6-9) during Mark Few’s 23-year tenure as coach.
Both teams were initially slated to start the WCC portion of their schedules against other schools before COVID-19 outbreaks led to postponements.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to open at San Diego on Dec. 30, but the Toreros’ outbreak led to a postponement. Then Gonzaga had its own COVID-19 issues, prompting a game at Loyola Marymount (Jan. 1) and a home contest against San Francisco (Thursday) to be postponed.
Pepperdine was slated to open on Jan. 1 at Pacific, but the Tigers’ COVID-19 issues led to a postponement. Thursday’s home game against San Diego was also postponed with the Toreros still dealing with an outbreak.
Long stretches without many games is part of the territory during the COVID-19 era.
Gonzaga will have played just three games in a 29-day span before taking the court Saturday as it looks to increase the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak to 60 games.
The Bulldogs routed North Alabama 93-63 on Dec. 28 in their most recent contest. Julian Strawther scored a team-high 15 points as Gonzaga had five players score in double digits.
“Our offense was pretty efficient,” Few told reporters afterward. “We can put eight or nine guys out there who are capable of double figures.”
Star forward Drew Timme leads the Zags in scoring (16.7 points per game) and has made 60.9 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Strawther (13.2), Chet Holmgren (13.0) and Rasir Bolton (10.9) also are scoring in double digits. The 7-foot Holmgren is shooting 61.2 percent and leads Gonzaga in rebounding (8.4) and blocked shots (43).
Bolton leads the Bulldogs with 27 3-pointers, two more than Strawther. Bolton has shot a team-best 44.3 percent from behind the arc.
Pepperdine last played on Dec. 23 when it beat NAIA program Westmont 96-69. The Waves have won four of their past five games.
Freshman forward Maxwell Lewis emerged in the contest with a career-best 27 points. The splurge raised Lewis’ scoring average to 9.1.
“I feel like I’m getting my confidence up and I’m playing more in the system,” Lewis said after the contest. “Just getting used to the college game plan — I think I’m getting more comfortable with that.”
Jan Zidek leads Pepperdine with a 12.4 scoring average. Houston Mallette (11.3) also averages in double digits while making a team-best 33 3-pointers.
Keith Fisher III is the team’s leading rebounder (6.3), while Mike Mitchell Jr. leads in assists (4.9).
Pepperdine is 0-7 away from home, including five road setbacks. The Waves’ worst showing was an 82-48 loss at UC Irvine on Nov. 20.
–Field Level Media