April 24th, 2024

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

By Eddie Pells, The Associated Press on March 29, 2024.

DETROIT (AP) – Purdue big man Zach Edey withstood all the abuse Gonzaga could lay on him Friday night, finishing with 27 points and 14 rebounds to lift the Boilermakers to an 80-68 victory and move them one win from the Final Four.

Gonzaga leaned on, swatted and grabbed at the 7-foot-4 center from Toronto – even slapped him across the forehead at one point – but it wasn’t enough to stop either him or his top-seeded team.

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

Braden Smith had 14 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds for the Boilermakers, though this game, like most of them for Purdue (32-4), came down to the other team’s inability to hold down the nation’s leading scorer.

“Obviously we’ve always got a place to go with the ball with big Zach,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

Fifth-seeded Gonzaga (27-8) gave it a go for 30 minutes, but foul trouble and an ever-shrinking basket ended its hopes.

Graham Ike had 18 points and 10 rebounds for coach Mark Few’s 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. Ryan Nembhard of Aurora, Ont., had 14 points and seven assists for Gonzaga.

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.

Ike got his second foul halfway through the second half while he and Edey tussled in the paint, then jawed at each other after the ref’s whistle. 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.

No moment, though, illustrated the frustration as much as at the end of the first half when another Gonzaga big man, Ben Gregg, found himself pinned under the basket by Edey. Gregg flailed and nailed the center with a roundhouse open-handed slap flush across the forehead as Edey dropped in an easy layup.

All par for the course for last season’s AP Player of the Year, who pretty much has a double-double when he gets 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. It was part of a five-shot trip down the court that Edey sealed with a jumper in the paint.

Purdue outrebounded Gonzaga 32-25.

Edey finished the evening 10 for 15 from the floor and 7 for 10 from the line. 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.

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

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