Bell, a freshman out of Kentridge High, scores a career-high 15 points Thursday night in a 73-45 victory over Pepperdine.
SPOKANE — Gary Bell Jr., known primarily as a defensive specialist, led No. 25 Gonzaga with a career-high 15 points on Thursday night in a 73-45 victory over Pepperdine.
“Coach wanted me to stay aggressive,” said the freshman out of Kentridge High, who came in averaging 8.0 points per game.
Bell scored 12 points in the first half and then sat for most of the second half.
Robert Sacre and Kevin Pangos each scored 11 points for Gonzaga (12-2, 2-0 West Coast Conference), which has won seven straight since suffering consecutive losses to Illinois and Michigan State.
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The Zags have beaten Pepperdine 21 times since their last loss to the Waves in 2002 — their longest current streak against a WCC rival.
Jordan Baker scored 10 points to lead Pepperdine (7-7, 1-2), which has not beaten a ranked opponent since 1994.
The Waves, who came in averaging 60 points per game, never led and shot just 28.3 percent from the field against Gonzaga’s pressure defense. Their season-low total was 39 points in a loss to UCLA.
“Our defense was very, very good for 40 minutes tonight,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Gonzaga has not allowed an opponent to score more than 65 points during its winning streak.
The Zags out-rebounded the Waves 41-37 and forced them into 20 turnovers.
Gonzaga didn’t have a great shooting night, either, making just 41 percent.
Elias Harris added 10 points and eight rebounds for Gonzaga.
“We hold them to 17 (points) until the six-minute mark” of the first half, Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. “Then we lost our poise, moreso offensively against their press. They scored 21 points in the last six minutes. That’s the disappointment.”
Gonzaga opened the game with a 12-3 run, but the Waves replied with a 9-3 surge to close to 15-12. Pepperdine hit a cold patch and scored just two points over the next six minutes and the Bulldogs took a 28-14 lead.
“We moved the ball and got the shots we wanted, and they finally started dropping,” Few said.
Gonzaga led 38-20 at halftime, having outscored the Waves 23-8 over the final 11 minutes. Pepperdine shot just 29 percent in the first half while Gonzaga hit 41 percent.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 12-3 run to build a 50-24 lead and were not threatened the rest of the way as Few substituted liberally.
Freshman guards Bell and Pangos combined for 26 points and five assists.
“I know how good they are,” Wilson said of the two guards. “Mark’s done a good job of implementing them, especially being young guys new to the system.”