by Shawn Martin Excelhsports

“We are 40 minutes from a National Championship” proclaimed Purdue Sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer during the post-game news conference after the Boilermakers beat this year’s Cinderella – North Carolina State – 63-50 in Glendale Arizona.

This was certainly no beauty contest where a Cinderella gets her crown, but two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead Purdue to the win in front of a nearly 75,000 fans in State Farm Stadium and millions more watching on television.
Those numbers for Edey are significant. The native of Toronto Ontario Canada established a new benchmark for a player in the NCAA Tournament.
Edey has had at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and shot better than 60% in five consecutive games in the same tournament. Nobody in the history of the college game has done it more than four times until today, the last David Robinson of the Naval Academy.
Purdue started the game well and led 12-4 at the first media timeout. They built a twelve-point lead with 6-1/2 minutes to go in the first half, and the large contingent of Boilermaker fans made their presence known.
The Wolfpack answered with a quick six nothing spurt of their own, but Purdue responded and built the lead back up to around ten. Boilers led by six at the break, 35-29.
Purdue point guard Braden Smith had five rebounds and five assists at halftime. He also had five turnovers – including two over and back calls at half court – and languished a 0 for six in field goals.
Maybe the worst half of basketball the sophomore from Westfield has had in West Lafayette.
He steadied himself for the final twenty minutes and did not commit another turnover in the game. His three with 3:12 left in the game – his only points – pretty much sealed the game for Matt Painter’s team, putting Purdue up 18.
North Carolina State misfired with their shooting all game, and that cost them a possible opportunity to knock off a Purdue team that was sloppy with the ball all game. Edey also had five fumbles, and the team had an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers for the game. The Wolfpack could only muster ten points off those 16 chances.
North Carolina State implemented a little different defensive strategy than most teams have played against Purdue the last two seasons.
They didn’t double down on Edey much and they stayed away from fouling him too. NC State had 13 total fouls as a team. The last game, Edey drew 13 fouls himself.
The Wolfpack guards harassed the three primary guards for Purdue, pressuring them out on the wings, keeping them out of the lane, and forcing eight of the Boilermaker turnovers.
Purdue did return to their normal consistency and volume of three-point shooting. They made ten of 25 three-point attempts for 40%, which is their season average. Remember, Smith was one of five from beyond the arc – he shoots 43 % on the season.
North Carolina State was anemic from the field. They were 21-57 from the field (36.8%), including 5-19 from beyond the arc (26.3%). They also only got to the free throw line four times, hitting three. Purdue out rebounded the Wolfpack 41-28.
After Edey’s record setting performance, the Boilers received 14 points from Lance Jones and eleven from Fletcher Loyer, who had been a steady performer the entire tournament. Mason Gillis hit two threes in five attempts and added two free throws for eight.  Trey Kaufman-Renn added seven points and helped to keep Wolfpack star DJ Burns Jr. In check.
Burns Jr. has been a much talked about player during NC State’s nine game run to the Final Four. He had 8 points and one rebound against the solid Purdue defense. DJ Horne led NC State with 20 while Indianapolis native Jayden Taylor contributed 11.
The Wolfpack finish the season at 26-15 – they began the ACC tournament at 17-14. Purdue (34-4) advances to the National Championship game on Monday night at 9:20pm eastern against the defending national championship team, Connecticut.

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