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

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

Gonzaga focused its defense on Edey early, repeatedly double-teaming him in the post and on pick-and-rolls. Purdue's lethal halfcourt offense responded with a 7-of-13 effort from 3-point distance in the first half.

When Gonzaga responded by showing Edey single coverage in the second half, he backed down his smaller defenders and scored. It's a lethal inside-out combination that has Purdue near the top of the short list of remaining contenders for the national title.

Gonzaga keeps pace ... for a while

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

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

Zach Edey feasted and had plenty of help from a lethal Purdue halfcourt offense. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Zach Edey feasted and had plenty of help from a lethal Purdue halfcourt offense. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus via Getty Images)

Graham Ike, another Gonzaga big man with the unenviable task of guarding Edey, fouled out with 5:07 left and Purdue leading 72-59, further extending the Bulldogs' woes.

When it was done, Edey had tallied 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 3-point distance. Three Purdue starters joined Edey in scoring double figures. Gonzaga shot 49.2% from the field and 31.6% (6 of 19) from 3, and it 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 overwhelming 7-foot-4 athlete with no physical match in college basketball. But he's been surrounded by elite shooters all season, a significant difference in this year's team and last year's that lost to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Purdue entered Friday as the nation's No. 1 3-point shooting team with a remarkable 40.9% success rate from long-distance. Last year's team shot 32.2% from 3, good for 291st in the nation.

The difference makes Purdue virtually unstoppable when its shots are falling — which they frequently are. And that's exactly the Purdue team Gonzaga ran into Friday night.

Braden Smith was Edey's co-headliner against the Bulldogs. The sophomore 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 distance. 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, presenting the Bulldogs with a constant choice of picking their poison.

The Boilermakers are now a win away from the Final Four that so notably was far out of their grasp last season. They'll face Tennessee on Sunday for the right to advance to next weekend.