'Dogs Get Bullish on Waves, 78-63

Blake Stepp silenced a frenzied and hostile Firestone Fieldhouse crowd with 27 points to pace Gonzaga to another convincing win over Pepperdine Wednesday night. <p> A Homecoming week, orange-clad season-high crowd of 3,297 came prepared to do all it could to inspire the Waves and undermine the Bulldogs, but in the end it was simply too much Stepp and not enough offense for the Waves, who fell to 3-5 in WCC play.

Gonzaga (17-5, 8-0 WCC) had its hands full early, as the Waves rode the electricity of the crowd to keep the game close throughout the first half. A late jumper by Mike Westphal brought the team to within striking distance at 51-42 at the halftime buzzer.

The frenetic pace of the first half vanished during the intermission. The Waves slowly chipped away at the Zags' lead and cut it to 53-47 on a thunderous, crowd-pleasing Robert Turner dunk with 15:12 to play in the game.

But as has happened so often this year, the Waves' opponent kicked it up a notch and went on a back-breaking scoring run to put the game away. After a timeout following the Turner dunk, Stepp immediately hit two three-pointers to extend the lead to 12. The Waves went ice-cold and were held scoreless for 7:10, falling victim to a 14-0 Gonzaga run. The 20-point deficit was simply too much for the Waves to overcome.

Terrance Johnson led the Waves with a stellar 20-point, seven-rebound performance. Jimmy Miggins added 14, Boomer Brazzle 12, and Alex Acker chipped in nine points and six assists.

Stepp received support from Cory Violette's 11 points and 14 rebounds. The Zags outrebounded the Waves, 39-29, and held Pepperdine to 27% shooting in the second half.

The low-scoring, poor shooting second half by both teams was quite a contrast from the up-tempo opening period. After combining for 93 first-half points and shooting over 55%, both teams cooled way off in the second, as the Zags outscored Pepperdine 27-21.

The Zags' major second-half run to decide the game continued a trend for the Waves. In its last game, Pepperdine lost at St. Mary's when the Gaels ended the game on a 13-3 spurt. Pepperdine held a one-point lead in Provo, UT, when BYU exploded for a 26-3 stretch. In each instance, the run followed a time out and came at a time when the Waves seemed to have momentum.

Pepperdine has lost three consecutive conference games for the first time since 1997.

Homecoming festivities continue Saturday, when the Waves (11-10 overall) host Portland at 7:30pm. The Waves defeated the Pilots 82-68 on the road earlier this season and will look to get back on the winning track against a team they know they can beat.

Pepperdine's men's volleyball team, national finalists a season ago and ranked 4th in the nation, kicks off the Homecoming doubleheader at 4pm against Pacific.


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