SPOKANE, Washington — On a day when Gonzaga's high-flying offense wasn't clicking, the Bulldogs turned to guard Kevin Pangos and their stingy defense to beat stubborn Pepperdine.
Pangos scored 19 points and the third-ranked Bulldogs took over in the second half of a 56-48 victory Saturday.
"Kevin is a great leader, " Gonzaga guard Byron Wesley said. "Whenever we feel pressure or get rattled, we look to Kevin. He calms everybody down."
Pangos connected on four 3-pointers as the Zags needed to come back from a rare deficit at home to win their 19th consecutive game.
"It was a good win for us," Pangos said. "I thought they played well and made it tough for us to score.
"They didn't back down at all," he added.
The 56 points were the fewest for the Zags since they scored 54 in a loss to Memphis almost exactly a year ago. They came in averaging 80 points per game, sixth in the nation.
"That may be the lowest-possession game we've played all year," coach Mark Few said. "Pepperdine controlled the tempo."
But the Gonzaga defense buckled down in the second half, holding the Waves to 18 points and 29 percent shooting.
"In the first half we made shots, in the second half we didn't," Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. "They were more aggressive and forced us to foul."
Wilson said Pangos was the key to the game.
"The praise is well-deserved," Wilson said. "He is on the Wooden list for a reason."
Kyle Wiltjer added 13 points and Domantas Sabonis had 10 for Gonzaga (26-1, 14-0 West Coast Conference).
Stacy Davis scored 13 for Pepperdine (15-11, 8-7), which gave Gonzaga its toughest league test when it lost by just two points at home in January.
Gonzaga has the nation's longest home winning streak at 40 games and is the first team in the country to reach 26 wins this season.
Pepperdine, which has lost three straight after beating league powers Saint Mary's and BYU, is seeking its first winning season since 2005.
Gonzaga, which leads the nation in field goal shooting at 53 percent, won despite shooting just 41.7 percent. Pepperdine shot only 42.3 percent, thanks to a poor second half (29 percent) that cost the Waves the game. They missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts in the game.
"We played harder," Few said, referring to the second half. "We buckled down after halftime."
The score was tied 30-all at halftime, and Wesley opened the second half with a layup that gave Gonzaga its first lead.
Gonzaga put together a 16-3 run to open the second half, including eight points by Pangos and six by Wesley, for a 46-33 advantage.
"Wesley had one of his better games in intensity and approach," Few said.
Pepperdine made only one of 11 shots to open the second and didn't hit its second field goal of the half until there was 10:55 left. By then the Waves trailed 48-37.
Both teams went through a scoring drought before Wiltjer's layup put Gonzaga up 52-38 with 6:47 remaining.
The Waves scored the final three baskets of the game to make the score appear tighter than the second half really was.
In the first, Gonzaga played sloppy basketball and faced a rare home deficit as Pepperdine took a 14-9 lead. Both offenses heated up, and the Waves held a 24-18 lead thanks to three baskets by Lamond Murray Jr.
Gonzaga went on an 8-2 run, with Wiltjer's 3-pointer tying the score at 26.
The teams were tied at halftime even though Gonzaga shot just 34.6 percent compared to 53.6 percent for Pepperdine.
Pepperdine: Davis leads the Waves with an average of 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. ... Pepperdine came in limiting opponents to 41.7 percent shooting, including 27.3 percent on 3-pointers. ... Pepperdine has no seniors on the roster.
Gonzaga: Wiltjer had scored at least 20 points in three straight games. ... Gonzaga ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 80.7 points per game. ... Gonzaga has won 28 straight against Pepperdine to lead the series 48-31.
Gonzaga made 11 of 12 free throws. Pepperdine took only seven foul shots, making four.
ON THE BOARDS
Gonzaga won the rebound battle 32-28 behind seven boards from Przemek Karnowski and six from Wiltjer.
Pepperdine hosts Santa Clara on Thursday.
Gonzaga plays at Pacific on Thursday.