Dower Perfect As Bulldogs Continue Mastery Of Pepperdine
MALIBU, Calif. (AP) - Sam Dower Jr. was perfect from the field and scored 18 points as Gonzaga bounced back from having its 22-game conference win streak snapped by routing Pepperdine in a West Coast Conference first-place showdown, 70-53 Thursday night.
While Dower was perfect in his return to the starting line-up for the first time in six games since suffering a back injury Dec. 21, the Bulldogs remained perfect for the 25th straight time against Pepperdine. In a series that once favored the Waves 26-6 at the end of the 1993 season has since turned to a 45-31 Gonzaga advantage as the Zags have won 39 of the last 44 meetings.
Dower converted all seven of his field goal attempts and was 4-of-5 from the line with eight rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (15-3, 5-1 West Coast). Kevin Pangos finished with 14 points for Gonzaga.
Pepperdine took a 10-5 lead on Amadi Udenui's 3 early in the first half, but Kyle Dranginis gave the Zags the lead for good with a layup with 9:36 left to make it 20-18 and sparking a 23-3 run for the Bulldogs who took a 39-21 halftime lead. A Pangos trey from the right elbow and back-to-back threes by Drew Barham capped the run for the Bulldogs.
Stacy Davis with 12 points was the lone player to score in double figures for Pepperdine (11-8, 4-3).
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was pleased with the way the Bulldogs responded one week after suffering their first WCC loss in five outings at Portland.
“It was on par with the way we played in Spokane in that home stretch at both ends of the floor,” Few said of the four-game stretch of WCC games at home to launch the conference campaign. “We were very, very efficient on the offensive end; we took good shots, moved the ball instead of just trying to score on the first action. On the defensive end we challenged all of their shots and did a good job against Davis. He’s a load and was very aggressive early. But we did a good job of making his shots tough and getting him frustrated, and blocked off and gave him one shot. That’s who we are. When we can play like that we’re pretty good.”
Davis had 9 of his team-high 12 points in the first half as he went 4-for-8 from the field. But he managed just 1-for-5 in the second half.
The Waves entered the game just a half game behind the first-place Bulldogs in the standings.
“That team came into this game very confident and hot. They were felling good, got a big win on the road and we did a nice job of sticking with our plan when we got in here,” Few said of meeting the challenge.
The defensive rotations were effective for the Bulldogs, something they didn’t do a good job of in the loss at Portland.
“That’s playing with more effort, more energy. We needed to be in the gaps, but we needed to close out on shooters. When we’ve done that we’ve been a pretty effective defensive team, and when we haven’t is when we’ve struggled,” Few said in praise of the defense.
The Bulldog bench got plenty of minutes as well as 11 players got into the game.
“We were able to play some guys. Ryan (Edwards) came in and gave us some good minutes, Angel (Nunez) came in in the first half and gave us some good minutes,” Few noted.
But Dower drew the most praise from his coach.
“Sam got back into flying to the ball, being tough with the ball. He got a bunch of rebounds in traffic and got three offensive rebounds off free throws. Good things happened when we went to him on the block,” Few said of the 6-9 fifth-year senior who is rounding back into his form of old prior to the injury.
Gonzaga goes for the road sweep Saturday in a 1 p.m. matinee at Loyola Marymount. The Lions fell to Portland 71-57 Thursday. San Francisco also dropped to 4-3 with Pepperdine as the Dons fell at home to BYU 83-76. Gonzaga is at least two games ahead of everybody in the loss column with the exception of BYU (4-2) and Saint Mary’s (3-2).
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