SPOKANE — The Gonzaga Bulldogs love to talk about how much improvement they’ve seen over the years in West Coast Conference basketball, but the Bulldogs continue to do a remarkable job of making those improvements hard to see.
Gonzaga bolted to a 16-2 lead in the first 81/2 minutes and forced 21 turnovers Thursday night in an 82-56 romp over Pepperdine.
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs have won 24 straight games against the Waves.
“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. Kelly Olynyk, scored 13 in 19 minutes before sitting out much of the second half with what he described as a minor back injury.
Olynyk said last Saturday’s 65-63 comeback win at San Diego reminded the Bulldogs not to 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 expecting to win.”
The Bulldogs won their fifth in a row to improve to 22-2 overall and 9-0 in the WCC. Pepperdine (10-13, 2-8) has lost four in a row during a 1-7 skid.
Freshman forward Stacy Davis led the Waves with 16 points and nine rebounds. Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said “you can only use youth so long” as an excuse for poor play, but the young Waves made 15 turnovers in the first half while playing in front of the usual raucous, sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“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. The 26-point margin of defeat was the largest of the season for Pepperdine.
Memphis transfer Drew Barham, a junior guard, scored nine points in his first start for Gonzaga. He replaced senior defensive specialist Mike Hart.
Olynyk was named the WCC Player of the Month for January. The junior averaged 21.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in nine games. … Gonzaga coach Mark Few was named an assistant for the U.S. team that will play in the World U-19 Championships, June 17-July 7, in Prague, Czech Republic. Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart will also be an assistant to Florida coach Billy Donovan.