Purdue’s Final Four Dream Realized Through Edey’s Stellar 40-point Game

Purdue’s Final Four Dream Realized Through Edey’s Stellar 40-point Game

Purdue big man Zach Edey scored a career-high 40 points, 16 rebounds, and one key block Sunday, propelling the Boilermakers to their first Final Four since 1980 with a 72-66 win over Tennessee.

The 7-foot-4 center willed his way to victory in a back-and-forth battle between the nation’s top two players, defeating Tennessee’s All-American Dalton Knecht, who finished with 37 points.

Edey blocked away Knecht’s layup as the Northern Colorado transfer drove to the hoop with 33 seconds left, capping the Vols’ desperation comeback attempt.

Purdue (33-4) overcame last year’s major letdown — a first-round defeat as a No. 1 seed — to secure a trip to Glendale, Arizona. On Saturday, the Boilermakers will face either Duke or North Carolina State in the national semifinals.

“We had to take it,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the harassment that occurred last season. “Sometimes when you sit in it and you’re honest with yourself and you take it, some great things can happen.”

Tennessee (27-9), a No. 2 seed, was looking for its first Final Four appearance, but Vols coach Rick Barnes was denied his second trip to college basketball’s biggest stage in 38 years.

This was a scrappy game played in front of a raucous crowd of Purdue fans who had traveled up from Indiana.

They were hunting for history, and they found it — along with the game ball, which Fletcher Loyer tossed roughly 20 rows into the stands when the buzzer sounded.

With the school’s 87-year-old former coach, Gene Keady, sitting in the seats, this game at times felt like a dusty old relic.

Purdue fed the ball into Edey in the post, and while Tennessee’s grabby, swotty defense made some inroads—even blocking two of his shots—foul trouble mounted up for Tennessee, and Edey wore them down, but only just. He shot 13 of 21 from the field and 14 of 22 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, the 3-point arc, which had only been introduced six years before Purdue’s previous trip this deep into the tournament, played no role in the Boilermakers’ success. They were 3 for 15 from long range.

“We wanted to isolate Zach and get him down there,” he said. “We missed a bunch of three-pointers and free throws. “We stuck with it.

How close was this game and its matchup? There were eight leader changes and six ties. More tellingly, with 5 minutes remaining, the teams were knotted at 58, with Knecht and Edey both scoring 31 points on 12 field goals.

According to OptaSTATS, this was the first time opposing players scored more than half of their team’s points in an NCAA Tournament game.

The contest, however, came down to three 3-pointers. Knecht squandered a couple of easy looks, first with his side trailing by three at 3:09, then again on the next possession while down by six.

In between, Lance Jones sighted up from the corner for a three-pointer, giving Purdue a 66-60 advantage and some breathing room.

The coup de grace occurred as Tennessee attempted to cut into a 69-64 deficit. Knecht drove down the lane and went up, but Edey, who was in his 39th minute, moved across and cleanly swatted the shot.

Knecht finished 14 for 31 from the floor. After hitting his first four three-pointers, he went 2 for 8.

“Our guys put up a fight,” Barnes stated. “We went up against a guy with a unique game.”MORE RARE COMPANY.

Edey is the first player to have 40 or more points and at least 16 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game since Loyola Marymount’s Bo Kimble had 45 points and 18 rebounds against New Mexico State in 1990. ALL-MIDWEST REGION.

Edey was voted the Midwest’s finest player. Knecht was joined on the all-region team by Braden Smith (Purdue), Baylor Scheierman (Creighton), and Zakai Zeigler (Tennessee).

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