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Gonzaga beats Pepperdine for the 24th straight time

The SportsXchange

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Each and every year, Gonzaga coaches and players go to great lengths to say how much West Coast Conference basketball has improved.

And each and every year, the Bulldogs systematically destroy most WCC rivals on a nightly basis.

The sixth-ranked Bulldogs stretched their winning streak over Pepperdine to 24 games Thursday night, pounding the Waves 82-56 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The standard sellout crowd of 6,000 looked on with appreciation, but none of the fans seemed remotely surprised when the Bulldogs forced eight turnovers in the first 8 1/2 minutes while bolting to a 16-2 lead.

"We're mature this year," Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos said. "We don't relax for any game."

Pangos led four Bulldogs in double figures, with 14 points. WCC Player of the Year candidate Kelly Olynyk scored 13 points in 19 minutes before sitting out much of the second half with a back injury he described as minor.

Olynyk said last Saturday's 65-63 comeback win at San Diego reminded the Bulldogs they can't take anyone lightly.

"Last week was a good wake-up call," he said. "San Diego played us real tough. We can't just walk into these games expecting to win."

The Bulldogs won their fifth straight game to improve to 22-2 overall and 9-0 in the WCC. Pepperdine (10-13, 2-8), loaded with freshmen and sophomores, has lost four in a row during a 1-7 skid.

Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said "you can only use youth so long" as an excuse for poor play. The Waves made 21 turnovers.

"It's a great atmosphere," Wilson said. "We talked about it. We tell our guys, 'The crowd can't come on the floor to play, so we shouldn't allow them to speed us up,' and they did at times.

"We lost our poise."

The Waves trailed 35-20 at halftime after making a whopping 15 turnovers. Many of the turnovers came against Gonzaga's half-court trap.

"We were switching things up, doing a little different stuff, trying to work on some stuff to get our defense ramped up again," Olynyk said. "It really helped us out."

Promising freshman forward Stacy Davis led the Waves with 16 points and nine rebounds. Davis is one of Pepperdine's most talented players, but Wilson had held him out of the starting lineup the previous four games.

"He's growing," Wilson said. "We've challenged him to show more energy and effort."

The 26-point margin of defeat was the largest of the season for Pepperdine. The Waves shot just 36.2 percent from the field, which figured in their 15 offensive rebounds. Pepperdine outrebounded the bigger, more experienced Bulldogs 39-29.

Gonzaga reserves Kyle Dranginis and Przemek Karnowski scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Karnowski, a 7-foot-1 freshman from Poland, led the Bulldogs with a season-high nine rebounds in just 18 minutes.

Nikolas Skouen scored 12 points for Pepperdine, and Austin Mills added 10. Starting guard Jordan Taylor, who was second on the team with 11.7 points per game, sat out the second half with back spasms and did not score.

Memphis transfer Drew Barham, a junior guard, scored nine points in his first start for Gonzaga. He replaced senior defensive specialist Mike Hart.

Gonzaga made just seven turnovers and had 18 assists on 26 field goals. Pangos and Olynyk led all players with four assists apiece.

NOTES: Earlier Thursday, Olynyk was named the WCC Player of the Month for January. The junior forward averaged 21.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in nine games. It was the second straight WCC Player of the Month award for Olynyk, one of 12 players on the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List for national player of the year. ... Gonzaga coach Mark Few was named an assistant coach for the U.S. team that will play in the World Under-19 Championships June 17-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic. Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart will serve as the other assistant to Florida coach Billy Donovan. The three men handled the same roles last summer when they guided the U.S. 18U team to the FIBA Americas tournament championship in Brazil. "Anytime you can represent your country, it is something special," Few said. He said the three coaches "are great friends. We complement each other on the floor and off with our philosophies." ... Half of the starters Thursday were foreigners. Gonzaga started Canadians Olynyk and Pangos and German Elias Harris. Pepperdine started Skouen from Norway and Moriba De Freitas from Trinidad.

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