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Purdue star Zach Edey (15) drew a foul against Wisconsin's Steven Crowl during last Saturday's overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals at Target Center. (Angelina Katsanis, Star Tribune)
Purdue star Zach Edey (15) drew a foul against Wisconsin's Steven Crowl during last Saturday's overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals at Target Center. (Angelina Katsanis, Star Tribune)

No. 1 Purdue uses 30-point, 21-rebound game from Zach Edey to overpower No. 16 Grambling

After a lackluster first half, the Boilermakers turned it on and cruised to a win

INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue can now breathe a sigh of relief, as it avoided a second straight loss to a 16 seed after beating Grambling 78-50 behind an all-around sensational performance from Zach Edey on Friday. The Boilermakers used the home Indianapolis crowd to go on an impressive second half run en route to a dominant victory over the Tigers. 

This one started out close, possibly giving some Purdue fans flashbacks, but credit has to be given to Grambling for their solid start. They started out making shots and giving Purdue some issues on defense. Purdue head coach Matt Painter said “I didn't think our attention to detail was great in the first half” and it showed on the scoreboard. Grambling was within four with just three minutes left in the half, something most would not have expected. Tiger head coach Donte’ Jackson said “we kind of kept it close” about the first half, but wanted to talk about the accomplishments his team achieved rather than the “what ifs” about this game.

“But I told them this has been a historic year for them,” Jackson said. “Win the SWAC regular season title, win the SWAC tournament title, win the First Four play-in game. For a low to mid major, that's all you can ask for.” 

This is all for good reason, as just making the tournament is an accomplishment, but even keeping it close for a half against a one seed says a lot about the competitiveness of a team. 

Purdue responded well, though, and ended the first half strong, taking a 36-27 lead into the break.  Braden Smith was key in that first half, hitting three long-range shots to give the Boilers momentum when they needed it most. Going into the second half, the defense was key for Purdue. 

“I thought our guys were really good in the second half defensively,” Painter said.

Head coach Matt Painter of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Wisconsin Badgers in the first half at Target Center in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Minneapolis. (David Berding/Getty Images/TNS)

The second half is where Edey really took control of the ballgame.

“They tried to stay one-on-one, and you saw it, we got the ball to me a lot,” Edey said.

He also mentioned that Braden Smith played a key role in winning this game, as well as how important he’s been all season.

“He's under control all the time,” Edey said. “He's ready. We ask him to do a lot, and he steps up and delivers every time.” 

Smith was sensational even when he wasn’t hitting shots, as his 10 assists and zero turnovers point toward being in total control of the basketball and always making the right play. This was key as not turning the ball over is always one of the focal points when trying to avoid an upset. 

They ended up avoiding an upset and then some as late in the second half the game really got out of hand in favor of the Boilers. Grambling looked lost on defense and Purdue was getting their way on offense any way they wanted. Non-rotation players even found their way into the game because of this.

“Any time those guys get to play, they're great,” Painter said. “They help us so much in practice. They do a lot of things.”

All this culminated in a big win for the Boilers and one in which their star players shined. Edey had an all-time performance, scoring 30 and rebounding 21 times, while Smith great assisting their ball 10 times, but also scoring 11 points. Trey Kaufman-Renn also had 11 points as their third player in double figures, while Fletcher Loyer and Camden Heide both had eight points.

Grambling got a great performance out of Tra’Michael Morton, as he scored 21 points and put his name out there on the national stage. Kintavious Dozier scored 16 as the Tigers’ other double figures scorer and was a great second option behind Morton. These two really performed well against a top team and for that they should be very proud of themselves and their program. 

Despite that, Purdue was the winner here and they won big. This should be a big win for them moving forward, as winning against a 16 seed may not seem like a major accomplishment, but getting this win should give the Boilers the confidence to keep advancing in the tournament. Even though coach Painter described his team as just “fine,” Purdue should be proud of this win and Edey’s sensational performance.

View the Hoosier Network's coverage of NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis here.

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