#24 Purdue manages #6 Gonzaga, 84-66, in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament.
Mason Gillis started the game missing 3 three-point shots, but the junior forward knocked down two big threes in the final handful of minutes and Purdue pick up their biggest win of the season, 84-66, to dominate the No. 6 team in the country in the second half.
Purdue will face Duke Sunday in the Championship Game of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament.
Gillis wasn’t the only 4 to hurt Matt Painter. In a night billed to be a battle of stellar centers, Caleb Furst’s season-high 10 points off the bench sparked a second-half Purdue run that Gonzaga could not overcome. The big man scored on two dunks and a corner three as part of an 8-point scoring flurry that extended the Purdue lead to 12.
Add in Braden Smith’s late play at point guard, and it was almost possible to forget the big men for a moment. The true freshman guard with 14 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
It was not easy for Purdue to start the game. They trailed 14-7 early on, behind many missed threes. They started the game going 2-of-13 from deep and it looked like they were on the verge of getting kicked out of the building by Gonzaga.
But Purdue ran in the second half and found the shot and offense. A three by Ethan Morton pushed Purdue to 77-61, one of 6 three-pointers in the second half for Purdue. Gonzaga’s offense never got to start, they finished 27-67 from the ground.
In the battle of the big men, Zach Edey finished with 23 points and 7 rebounds.
Drew Timme had 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Caleb Furst’s game
There are big boxes and then there are players who take to those boxes. Caleb Furst saw a big stage and jumped into the spotlight.
The sophomore big man came off the bench and made every frantic play he did all season. He blocked a shot to the rim from the side and then fouled to rebound offensively on his next possession. On the incoming play, Furst cut hard and found himself leaping again, this time to an open rim where he thundered a two-handed jam.
Furst capped off another dunk after a baseline cut and busted out a flurry of points with just his second three-pointer of the season. The corner jumper pushed Purdue’s lead to 12, the largest in the game at that point and forced Mark Few to call another timeout.
Purdue, A Cold Start
For a second it looked as if Purdue might run out of the building.
Gonzaga led 14-7, and Purdue failed to drop a pitch. Whether it was an open angle three, a pull up or off the top of the key, Purdue shooters from Mason Gillis to Fletcher Loyer couldn’t buy a bucket. They started 1-7 for the game and then went 2-for-13 from three-point range.
But because Painter has played his entire career, his players haven’t let their offensive play veer to the other end of the court. While Purdue finally found some threes to drop, they kept Gonzaga from getting comfortable up front. Both teams ended up shooting identical 4-for-15 from three-point range.
A first meeting at the edge
Gonzaga wanted to test Purdue’s true freshman in backcourt early. Mark Few called a print, but they didn’t factor in Fletcher Loyer’s arm or the 7’4″ tall man waiting in the paint.
At least, it didn’t seem that way since Loyer found Edey seemingly alone in the paint. However, Edey didn’t take the pass cleanly and that half second allowed Drew Timme to reach the long shot on the rim.
The long-awaited big man match-up wouldn’t have many moments like this. Despite being two of the best centers in the country, Mark Few decided to keep Timme fresh and out of trouble by defending Purdue’s 4 instead of Edey.
But Edey and Timme were the only people near the ball and both were rushing towards the rim at the same time and the largely Gonzaga crowd walked away cheering as Timme was able to block Edey’s dunk attempt.