Gonzaga hoped to get a chance to clinch a 10th straight West Coast Conference regular-season title on this trip to Southern California. That will have to wait until it gets home.
The No. 13 Bulldogs look to avoid a third straight WCC road loss and extend their 17-game win streak over Pepperdine on Saturday night.
Gonzaga (21-5, 9-2) talked about how it had learned a valuable lesson following its 81-77 overtime loss at San Francisco on Jan. 30. That defeat ended the Bulldogs’ 27-game winning streak in conference play.
In their first WCC road game since that contest, Gonzaga fell 74-66 to Loyola Marymount on Thursday night. Second-place Saint Mary’s won Thursday to pull within one-half game of the Bulldogs while third-place Portland won to move within one game.
Gonzaga offered no excuses after shooting 34.4 percent - its lowest mark in a conference game since shooting 33.9 percent in a 72-68 loss to Portland on Feb. 19, 2003.
“For the most part, they consistently beat us to the basketball time and time again,” said coach Mark Few, whose Bulldogs play their final three games at home after this matchup in Malibu.
Bouncing back against Pepperdine (7-20, 3-8) shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The Waves haven’t beaten the Bulldogs since an 88-79 win Jan. 18, 2002, and have lost eight straight overall.
Pepperdine was feeling better about its season when it met Gonzaga on Jan. 21 in a matchup of teams off to 3-0 WCC starts. The Bulldogs won 91-84 behind Matt Bouldin’s career-high 32 points as they held off the Waves’ 55-point second half.
Keion Bell scored 34 of his career-high 37 points after halftime for Pepperdine.
“We survived that one,” Bouldin said. “But to give up 30-something points to one player in the second half is unacceptable.”
Bell averaged 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in two games against the Bulldogs as a freshman in 2008-09, and seems to get especially motivated to face them.
“He’s not afraid of anybody,” Waves coach Tom Asbury said. “He kind of took over the game in the second half.”
After facing Gonzaga, Pepperdine lost six of its next seven by double figures. Bell scored 23 points in Thursday’s 83-62 loss to Portland.
Gonzaga may be concerned about whether freshman forward Elias Harris is hitting the wall. Harris averaged 21.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in his first seven WCC games, but those numbers have dipped to 12.8 and 5.5 in the last four.
Harris made 4 of 11 shots for 13 points Thursday and 7-footer Robert Sacre missed all five shots.
“We had some really good looks,” Few said. “We got some point-blankers. But we pretty much got throttled on our inside play and we thought we had a decided advantage in there.”
The Bulldogs are seeking their eight straight win in Malibu in the Waves’ home finale.
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