CHICAGO (AP) — Zach Edey knew what he needed to do just just about every time he touched the ball. After all, he had just one man trying to defend him in the paint.
The star center took over and led the Boilermakers to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Edey had 32 points and 14 rebounds, and No. 5 Purdue beat Ohio State 80-66 in the conference semifinals on Saturday.
“There’s kind of like a point halfway through the first half when one of our coaches, P.J. (Thompson), kind of came up to me, this is just one of those days you’ve got to get 30” he said. “So I just kind of stuck with it. I executed the game plan. I just tried my best to score the ball every time I touched it.”
The top-seeded Boilermakers (28-5) started to take control late in the first half and cruised into the conference final for the second straight year. They will meet Penn State — a 77-73 winner over No. 19 Indiana — on Sunday.
Purdue is seeking its second tournament title to go with the one it captured in 2009. It will try to become the first No. 1 seed to win since 2019.
Edey, the Big Ten Player of the Year, dominated down low with the Buckeyes mostly guarding him one on one.
“There’s legendary Hall of Fame coaches that don’t believe in doubling the post because they don’t want to be in rotations and they don’t like the rebound balance,” coach Matt Painter said. “But you’ve got to mess with him in some capacity.”
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said the plan actually was to help on Edey. It just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, whether the rotations weren’t quick enough or he caught the ball closer to the basket than the Buckeyes would have liked.
“We were trying to trap him,” Holtmann said. “We just couldn’t get there. He got it too deep a couple times, more than a couple times. Their ability, they do a great job obviously getting him the ball, but also he just plants in the paint and you can’t move him. He just plants there, and he’s immovable. Sometimes they’ll do some ball screen actions, but it’s too hard to get him out of the paint.”
Brandon Newman scored 15 and Braden Smith added 14 points as the Boilermakers won their fourth in a row.
Roddy Gayle Jr. led Ohio State (16-19) with a career-high 20 points, 16 in the first half. The freshman made 5 of 6 from long range.
“Just being able to see him grow over these past couple weeks, just how fast he’s been able to pick up on stuff and he’s been able to get to it, especially during this Big Ten tournament,” Justice Sueing said. “It shows the growth and progression he was able to make but also what’s to come. Roddy is going to be a great player for Ohio State University.”
Sueing had 15 points. Leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh missed his second game in a row because of a sore knee, and the Buckeyes came up short after winning five of six following a nine-game losing streak.
It was 61-55 when Ohio State’s Bruce Thornton missed a pull-up jumper with just over five minutes left. Edey grabbed the rebound and made two free throws before Smith drove for a layup to bump the lead to 10.
Edey scored 17 in the first half to help Purdue grab a 42-34 lead.
With Gayle hitting his five 3-pointers, the Buckeyes took to a 29-21 lead even though they were playing their fourth game in as many days. But Purdue outscored them 13-3 over the final 3:51.
Edey made two free throws and scored in the paint to put Purdue on top 33-31 before Gayle answered with a 3. But the Boilermakers reeled off the final nine points of the half.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes came on strong late in the season after struggling in a big way.
Purdue: With one of the best players in the country in Edey, the Boilermakers hope to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The question is whether his teammates will make enough shots.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ season is likely over, with Holtmann indicating they wouldn’t accept an invitation to a postseason tournament even if they got one. He said the team is banged up “beyond kind of what’s public.” “They’re not significant, but they need to be tended to, and they need some time off,” he said. “So that might answer your question.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers advanced to the championship game for the sixth time overall and second year in a row. Purdue beat Penn State twice by comfortable margins.