No. 1 Gonzaga hosts Pepperdine

NCAA Men's Basketball

The top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs look to stay undefeated when they host Pepperdine on Thursday night in Spokane, Wash.

Gonzaga (12-0 overall, 3-0 in West Coast Conference) is one of only three undefeated college basketball programs in the Top 25. They’ve steamrolled their first three WCC opponents, including last Saturday’s 116-88 win at Portland in which 6-foot-5 guard Joel Ayayi logged the Bulldogs’ first triple double in program history with 12 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds.

“I had a feeling it was bound to happen at some point, to be honest. I’m just lucky and thankful it happened (Saturday),” Ayayi, a junior from France, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “I’m just kind of lucky that I’m the first one. I know a bunch of players will have it in the future just because of the way we play. We’ve been recruiting good guys.”

Twenty-six of Gonzaga’s first 31 points against Portland came in the paint. The dominance inside had to do with good execution.

“Many of those (baskets) were not straight post-ups or high-lows, like we’ve been known for quite a while,” coach Mark Few said. “That’s the neat thing about it, I don’t know how you scout it because it’s not set plays. It’s just guys playing and making the right reads.”

Forward Corey Kispert leads the Zags in scoring at 21.1 points per game, and four other players average in double figures. Ayayi is fourth on the team in scoring at 11.8 points, and leads in rebounds with 8.1.

Gonzaga has a 59-31 record all time against the Waves of Malibu, Calif., who haven’t played a game since before Christmas.

Pepperdine (4-5) hasn’t beaten the mighty Zags since 2002 — a span of 39 games — and hasn’t won at Gonzaga since 1998.

Pepperdine last played on Dec. 23, when it lost 79-51 at visiting California State-Bakersfield.

Senior Colbey Ross is the Waves’ leading scorer at 19 points per game. Ross is Pepperdine’s all-time leader in points and assists. Among active Division I players, Ross entered the week ranking first in career free throws made (562), second in assists (712), third in points (1,934) and fifth in scoring average (18.1).

“Fans around the country only get to see me a few times throughout the year, so they don’t know how good I am or might be skeptical,” Ross told the Malibu Times. “This year, I’m trying to show how good I am and how good my team is.”

Gonzaga brings in the nation’s second-longest active win streak (16 games).

–Field Level Media

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