By Carey J. Williams Associated Press
SPOKANE — Gonzaga’s seven 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes freed up Przemek Karnowski to impose his will down low against Pepperdine after halftime.
Karnowski made eight of 10 shots and David Stockton missed just three of his nine attempts in Gonzaga’s 83-68 win over the Waves on Thursday night.
“We have great shooters on the team,” Stockton said after his second-to-last home game in a Gonzaga uniform. “They’ll shade to them more often than me. So I have open lanes to drive.”
Kevin Pangos and Stockton scored 18 points apiece as Gonzaga beat Pepperdine for the 26th straight time.
It’s Gonzaga’s longest streak against any team.
Karnowski added 17 points, 12 in the second half, and seven rebounds for Gonzaga (22-4, 12-1 West Coast Conference).
“I thought he was really good in the second half,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I challenged him a little bit at halftime, and I thought he was very, very good in the second half. Good deep post touches, delivering in there.”
Pangos made four of Gonzaga’s 10 3-pointers and Stockton had five assists and three steals to help the Bulldogs rebound after a 60-54 loss at Memphis on Saturday.
Stacy Davis scored 14 points for Pepperdine (14-12, 7-7), which was looking to rebound after an overtime loss to Saint Mary’s in its last game. Brendan Lane and Nikolas Skouen added 12 apiece for the Waves.
Pepperdine last beat the Bulldogs on Jan. 18, 2002 and hasn’t won in Spokane since the 1997-98 season.
Pepperdine had three turnovers and managed just two points in the first 3 minutes of the second half and trailed 50-36 after four straight Bell points.
But the Waves got it turned around with a 15-4 run, highlighted by a four-point play by Skouen and a three-point play by Jett Raines, to pull within 54-50.
Stockton ended the stretch with a momentum-changing 3-pointer.
“I thought he was the difference in the game,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. “He was a load today. Great at both ends. Very aggressive in transition.”
Karnowski scored seven points during a Gonzaga 13-2 run, and had a nice assist for a Sam Dower Jr. layup, as the Bulldogs built a commanding 72-57 lead with 7:11 left.
“In the second half, Karnowski just imposing his size and strength on us,” Wilson added when asked about the difference in the game. “When he’s hitting 8-foot hooks, he’s tough to guard.”
Gonzaga wouldn’t allow Pepperdine to score more than four consecutive points the rest of the way.
Pepperdine missed its first four 3-pointers of the game, while Gonzaga made three straight, two by Pangos, to take an early 21-13 lead. Gonzaga made six of its first seven 3-pointers, but the Waves had answers, making 12 of its first 22 field-goal attempts and trailed 33-27.
Stockton’s layup, his ninth point of the half, gave Gonzaga its biggest lead in the first 20 minutes at 40-29. Pepperdine only allowed two Gonzaga points in the final 2 minutes of the half and could have trimmed its 42-34 halftime deficit had it not missed four free throws in the final 3 minutes.
Both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half, with the difference coming beyond the arc. Gonzaga made 7 of 14 3-pointers, while Pepperdine made just 3 of 12.
In Gonzaga’s last loss to Memphis, the Bulldogs gave up 20 offensive rebounds. The Bulldogs did not allow a single offensive board to Pepperdine in the first half.
“When we came back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we were really focused on rebounding,” Karnowski added. “I think that’s what helped us win this game.”
It was a back-and-forth affair as Gonzaga did not allow a Pepperdine run of more than five points in the opening half.
Gonzaga has now won 27 straight West Coast Conference home games, dating back to Jan. 2011.