Mostly Cloudy
61.3 ° F
Full Weather
Sponsored By:

Sweet 16 nets another big win for Purdue and big man Zach Edey, 80-68 over Gonzaga

DETROIT (AP) — They leaned on him. They jawed at him. One time, they slapped him right across the forehead. None of it came close to stopping Purdue’s big man, Zach Edey, and now he and the Boilermakers are one win away from the Final Four.

The 7-foot-4 Edey withstood all the abuse Gonzaga could lay on him Friday night, finishing with 27 points and 14 rebounds to lift Purdue to an 80-68 victory over the Bulldogs in a Midwest Region semifinal.

There were highlights galore in the No. 1-seeded Boilermakers’ 32nd victory of the season, including a 14-point, 15-assist, eight-rebound masterpiece from guard Braden Smith.

No moment, though, told the story better than at the end of the first half when Edey had Gonzaga’s Ben Gregg pinned underneath the basket. Gregg, in a desperation move to make a play, flailed at the ball and ended up roundhousing Edey full-on in the forehead with his open hand, picking up his third foul.

“It didn’t feel good,” Edey said to a room full of laughs. “Obviously, he was just trying to make a play for the ball, just missed it and whack-a-moled my head a little bit.”

On Sunday, Purdue, which last year became history’s second first-round loser as a No. 1 seed, will play Tennessee, an 82-75 winner over Creighton later Friday. A win there would land the program in the Final Four for the first time since 1980.

Smith finished two assists shy of joining Joe Barry Carroll — who played on Purdue’s last Final Four squad — as the program’s second player to record a triple-double. Smith made two of Purdue’s seven 3-pointers in the first half, all of which forced Gonzaga into a choice no team wants to make — take away the 3s or sag down on Edey, the nation’s leading scorer.

“It’s pick your poison,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They shot it great from 3, and then in the second half, we shut down that area pretty good. Then, Edey was just a load.”

Once Edey got loose, foul trouble and an ever-shrinking basket ended the hopes for the fifth-seeded Zags.

Graham Ike had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who shot only 38% over the first 15 minutes of the second half and fell to 0-3 vs. Edey and the Boilermakers over the past two seasons.

As Purdue’s lead mushroomed, the arena in Detroit sounded more like Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Boilermakers, long seen as underachievers when the lights get bright in March, have a chance to play in April this time.

“We’ve had some experience in the tournament,” coach Matt Painter said. “We’ve had disappointment, and I think any time you have that, you appreciate things a little bit more, and your attention to detail is a little bit better.”

Like all Gonzaga big men, Ike spent the evening in foul trouble; he got his fifth and trudged off the court for good with 5:07 left. His second foul came halfway through the second half after he and Edey tussled in the paint, then jawed at each other after the ref’s whistle. That didn’t throw Edey off his game, either.

“I think he did a good job tonight of doing that — just keep your mouth shut and carry a big stick,” Painter said.

Edey made one of two free throws there, but followed with a couple baby hooks as part of a 10-0 run that made this a 16-point game.

All par for the course for last season’s AP Player of the Year, who pretty much has a double-double when he rolls out of bed in the morning. He recorded his 27th of the season and 66th of his career at the 14:44 mark of the second half. The 10th rebound came on the offensive glass and was part of a five-shot trip down the court that Edey sealed with a jumper in the paint.

Edey finished the evening 10 for 15 from the floor and 7 for 10 from the line. He drew nine fouls, seven more than anyone else on his team. He didn’t have a block but made things difficult on Gonzaga from his low spot in Purdue’s zone — altering no fewer than a half-dozen shots in the second half.

GOOD COMPANY

With his 14 rebounds, Edey joined Elvin Hayes, Rick Barry and Oscar Robertson as the fourth player in NCAA history with at least two seasons of 750 points and 425 rebounds. Edey is trying to become the first player since Robertson in 1960 to lead the nation in scoring and reach the Final Four.

GOOD FINISH

Few said the loss couldn’t obscure Gonzaga’s strong finish to the season. After fearing they might miss the tournament altogether, the Zags won 16 of their last 19.

“They doubled down, and they showed their real character and competed and then got even closer instead of pulling apart,” Few said.

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

Feedback