Zach Edey And Purdue Will Play For The National Title After Defeating NC State In The Final Four

GLENDALE — Saturday’s Men’s Final Four doubleheader began with considerable buzz, as four fan bases filed into State Farm Stadium before tip-off between the Purdue Boilermakers and the NC State Wolfpack. For more than 30 minutes, the No. 11 seed Wolfpack were up to the challenge, making life difficult for the Boilermakers and trailing by only seven points at the under-8 timeout of the second half. However, Zach Edey and Purdue withstood that charge and eventually pulled away, picking up a 63-50 victory that brought the Boilermakers within one win of their first national championship.

The evening began in encouraging fashion for Purdue, with size and physicality leading the way. The Boilermakers opened the game on a 12-4 run and, while they made only four of their first ten shots, they secured five offensive rebounds in fewer than five minutes of action.

As usual, Edey was the centerpiece of Purdue’s early attack. In the first 11 minutes, Edey generated 10 points and five rebounds while consistently altering shots on the defensive end.

Soon after, NC State was able to string together its best stretch of the second half, just as Purdue seemed to be asserting control. The Wolfpack used a 9-2 run to cut the margin to 30-25 with 3:54 remaining before halftime, buckling down defensively in the process.

With a late three-pointer by Fletcher Loyer, Purdue took a six-point halftime lead. In some ways, it was encouraging for NC State in that the team slashed what was once at 12-point deficit. On the other hand, the Boilermakers led despite a nightmare half from Braden Smith (0-of-6 shooting with five turnovers) and a 13-point half from standout NC State guard DJ Horne.

The start of the second half was not exactly filled with fireworks. After more than six minutes of game time, the six-point margin was unchanged from halftime, with each team managing only four points. Purdue was unable to take care of the ball on offense, committing a turnover on more than 30 percent of possessions in the first 26 minutes of the game, while NC State opened the second half by missing eight of its first nine shots.

However, it was the Boilermakers that broke out first when Mason Gillis and Lance Jones buried back-to-back triples to stretch Purdue’s advantage to 45-33 with 12:40 on the clock.

Prior to the mini-eruption, Purdue failed to score for almost five minutes, and it was a missed opportunity for NC State to make a run during that time. The Wolfpack were undeterred, though, as they hung in the game and cut the margin down to seven by the under-8 timeout.

Then, the Boilermakers turned on the gas. Coming out of the stoppage, Purdue essentially put the game away with a 12-1 run. The dagger came from Smith, who had struggled mightily throughout the game, but when the sophomore guard connected on a three-pointer with 3:24 to go, it was all but over.

For NC State, it was a tremendous and unexpected run to Glendale. The Wolfpack needed a stunningly unlikely win over Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinal, followed by an upset win over North Carolina in the final, to even reach the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Led by the majesty of DJ Burns, NC State won four games in the tournament, including three as an underdog, and didn’t look out of place on the biggest stage. Ultimately, NC State’s offense was unable to produce at the requisite level to pull the upset, scoring fewer than 0.9 points per possession and shooting just 36.8 percent from the field. Burns was held to eight points and, while Horne was fantastic, it wasn’t quite enough.

“I don’t know that I could be more prouder of a group of men that I’ve ever coached in my life,” NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “Adversity, you name it, situations, you name it, hard times, you name it. They found a way to win the ACC. They found a way to make it to the Final Four. We’re going to leave out of here because Purdue won the game, but we’ll walk out of here with our heads up as champions because of what we’ve been able to provide. The memories that these guys have created for NC State basketball, but more importantly for theirselves, for the rest of their lives. These guys are champions, ACC champions. So I’m proud of them.”

Purdue did not perform flawlessly by any means, including ball security issues throughout the game. The Boilermakers have yet to lose a game this season when they commit a turnover on fewer than 20 percent of possessions, but Purdue gave the ball away on 25.4 percent of trips in this matchup, making things more difficult than they needed to be. The Boilermakers also withstood a well below-average performance from Smith, but Jones and Loyer combined to shoot 7-of-14 from long distance to boost the offense.

And, of course, Edey was Edey. He finished with a “ho-hum” effort of 20 points and 12 rebounds, notching at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for the fifth straight NCAA Tournament game and the eighth consecutive game overall. The two-time National Player of the Year added four assists and two blocks and, even on a night where he perhaps did not have his A-plus fastball, the entire game revolved around him.

“The reason I came back (to school for final season) is playing games like this,” Edey said. “The reason I’m playing college basketball for four years. To finally get this game, big-time. We obviously got to keep going and keep playing. But, yeah, these are the games you can come back, these are the games you work and practice every day for.”

NC State certainly pushed Edey but, as has been the case in virtually every game this season, his dominance came to the forefront.

“I thought they did a good job tonight,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter of NC State’s defense on Edey. “I thought they battled him, pushed him out some, made it difficult on him, forced him into five turnovers.”

“He still got to his spots,” Painter continued. “If he can get to his spot for his jump hook, get it to the rim. He didn’t have a lot of dunks, easy ones tonight. He had to earn almost everything, whether he was going to his left hook or right hook, just continue to play and continue to compete. It’s really about running things and getting in that position. If he can get there, he’s had a lot of success.”

Purdue will face the winner of UConn and Alabama for the national title on Monday evening, with the Boilermakers aiming to replicate the feat of Virginia in 2019, going from a stunning first round loss to a No. 16 seed to a national title just 12 months later. For now, the Boilermakers are simply taking care of business, and Matt Painter’s team will participate in a 40-minute game for the title.