Purdue stymies NC State’s Cinderella run, marches into first championship game since 1969

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The first time Zach Edey touched the ball Saturday afternoon, DJ Burns Jr. clenched his teeth and held his ground. There was just one issue when it came to Edey versus Burns: seven inches.

Burns was too small for Edey, who could turn and shoot over Burns without issue. Edey scored 20 points and had 12 rebounds in a clunky 63-50 win over NC State that moved Purdue into its first national title game since 1969.

The Wolfpack actually had a great plan for Edey, using both Burns and Ben Middlebrooks against him. Both players could hold their ground and NC State’s guards would dig at the ball. They created five Edey turnovers and Middlebrooks was the Edey stopper, allowing Edey to score only one time when Middlebrooks had the assignment.

While Edey struggled when he put the ball on the floor and the Wolfpack dug in, he did have the wherewithal to pass it out to shooters when he could sense they were coming. He had four assists, including a big one on a dagger corner 3 from Fletcher Loyer that stretched the Boilermakers’ lead to 15 with just under five minutes left.

Purdue made 10-of-25 3-pointers. Super senior Lance Jones, who was the one piece Matt Painter added in the offseason after the first-round loss to Fairleigh Dickinson last season, made a team-best four 3s and added 14 points.

The Boilermakers’ defensive game plan on NC State was just as smart, placing Edey in front of the rim to try to keep Burns from scoring in the paint and daring Mohamed Diarra to shoot. Diarra missed both of his 3-point attempts and scored just two points. Edey also held his ground against Burns, who scored eight points on 4-of-10 shooting.

The Wolfpack had some success attacking Edey and Purdue’s bigs in drop coverage, opening up shots for DJ Horne, who scored a team-high 20 points. But NC State just missed too many shots, shooting 36.8 percent from the field.

The Wolfpack did enough on the defensive end to win the game. Not only did they have a smart plan for Edey, they also handled Braden Smith in the Boilermakers’ deadly pick-and-roll attack. Smith was not himself, missing his first seven shots and committing five turnovers — all in the first half, including two over-and-back violations. NC State almost dared him to shoot, and he finally put the game away with a late wide open 3-pointer around an Edey ball screen.

Purdue will play UConn in the nightcap in the program’s second ever appearance in the title game.

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(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

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