Pepperdine Waves at (7) Gonzaga Bulldogs (-14, 125.5 o/u)
The Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-2, 17-1 WCC) will be looking for their 18th consecutive appearance in the Western Coast Conference championship game tonight when they clash with the Pepperdine Waves (18-12, 10-8 WCC) at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas (9:00 p.m. Eastern).
Gonzaga only has two losses on its resume this season, but one of them – a 73-70 setback at home to BYU – came just over a week ago in the last game in the regular season. The Bulldogs bounced back by beating the San Francisco Dons 81-72 at the start of the WCC tournament, but they may have to get by Pepperdine with forward Kyle Wiltjer.
The 6’10” forward is questionable with a left hip injury.
“He’s really, really sore,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said of Wiltjer, who leads the team in PPG (16.6) and three-point shooting (44.7-percent). “He went back in the tunnel and tried to run but didn’t feel right, so he didn’t go back in [against San Francisco].”
Gonzaga has played a couple close games with Pepperdine already this year (78-76 at Pepperdine and 56-48 in Spokane), but history will give them reason for confidence. The Zags have won the last 17 semifinal games by an average of 13.4 points and the last three by a combined 53. And, despite the close nature of the games this season, the Bulldogs have beaten Pepperdine 28 times in a row.
Pepperdine, meanwhile, comes into tonight winners of three of the last four, including two straight. In the WCC quarterfinals, the Waves took care of the San Diego Toreros, 50-47, with Stacy Davis scoring 19 points.
The 50-point output was low, even by Pepperdine standards (the team averages just over 63 PPG). But coach Marty Wilson wasn’t concerned with the aesthetics of the win.
“We told our guys it doesn’t matter how it looks, we had a goal and a mindset for the week,” said Wilson. “We talked about the bottom line and our bottom line was to be playing on Monday.”
Mission accomplished for the Waves. However, in order to be playing on Tuesday, they’ll need to pull a huge upset as 14-point underdogs.
(Photo credit: SD Dirk (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)