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March Madness: Purdue overwhelms Gonzaga with barrage of 3s, too many Zach Edey to advance to Elite Eight

Zach Edey enjoyed a celebration and got plenty of help from a deadly Purdue half-court offense. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Purdue’s offense is much more than Zach Edey’s. It’s a lesson Gonzaga learned the hard way on Friday as the Boilermakers posted an 80-68 win over the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga focused its defense on Edey early, repeatedly doubling him in the post and on pick-and-rolls. Purdue’s deadly half-court offense responded with a 7-for-13 effort from 3-point range in the first half.

When Gonzaga responded by showing Edey some coverage in the second half, he pulled away and scored. It’s a deadly inside-out combination that puts Purdue at the top of the short list of remaining national title contenders.

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Gonzaga keeps pace… for a while

For much of the game, Gonzaga kept pace with its own torrid offense. The Bulldogs shot 51.7% from the field in the first half and kept things close as Purdue held a 40-36 lead at intermission. When Purdue pulled away early in the second, Gonzaga responded with a 9-2 run to get within two points.

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Put Purdue ultimately wore Gonzaga down. Senior Gonzaga forward Anton Watson went to the bench with his fourth foul with 12:33 to go and Purdue in the lead, 53-51. Purdue responded with a 14-2 run to extend the lead to 67-53. The game was over.

Graham Ike, another Gonzaga big man with the unenviable task of guarding Edey, fouled out with 5:07 left and Purdue up 72-59, adding to the Bulldogs’ misery.

When it was done, Edey had collected 27 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 10 of 15 from the field. As a team, Purdue shot 57.1% from the field and 45% (9 of 20) from three-point range. Three Purdue starters joined Edey in scoring in double figures. Gonzaga shot 49.2% from the field and 31.6% (6 of 19) from 3, and that wasn’t nearly enough.

Purdue has done this all season

This is nothing new for Purdue. Edey rightfully gets the lion’s share of attention as the presumptive two-time consensus National Player of the Year, an overpowering 7-foot-4 athlete who has no physical match in college basketball. But he has been surrounded by elite shooters all season, a significant difference between this year’s team and last year’s, which lost to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Purdue entered Friday as the nation’s No. 1 3-point shooting team with a remarkable 40.9% success rate from long range. Last year’s team scored 32.2% of 3rd place, good for 291st in the country.

The difference makes Purdue virtually unstoppable when the shots are falling – which is often. And that’s exactly the Purdue team Gonzaga faced on Friday night.

Braden Smith was Edey’s co-headliner against the Bulldogs. The second-year guard nearly posted a triple-double with 14 rebounds, 15 assists and eight rebounds. He shot 6 of 11 from the field and 2 of 4 from 3-point range. Lance Jones added 12 points while shooting 5 of 10 from the field. Smith, Jones, Fletcher Loyer and backup guard Mason Gillis each hit two 3-pointers, giving the Bulldogs constant options to pick their poison.

The Boilermakers are now one win away from the Final Four, which was so far out of their reach last season. They face the winner between Creighton and Tennessee on Sunday to advance to next weekend.

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