Purdue men’s basketball tops NC State, 63-50, to advance to championship game

INDIANAPOLIS — The Purdue men’s basketball team took advantage of its first trip to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in 44 years, beating North Carolina State, 63-50, in the first semifinal at State Farm Stadium to advance to Monday night’s national championship game.

The Boilermakers took a 12-point lead with six-and-half minutes to go in the first half on a Zach Edey free throw. The Wolfpack then rallied to cut the deficit to three with under a minute to play in the first half.

Guard Fletcher Loyer hit a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left in the first to push Purdue’s lead back to six before halftime.

Purdue led, 35-29, despite a rough first half from guard Braden Smith. The sophomore went 0-of-6 from the field while committing five turnovers.

Both teams started the second half slow before back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Mason Gillis and fifth-year transfer Lance Jones put the Boilers back up by 12.

Smith’s first points of the game — a 3-pointer with just over three minutes to play — put Purdue on top by 18 and pushed the game completely out of NC State’s reach.

“I thought we were very competitive. I thought we played hard,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter. “We just didn’t play great. I don’t think either team played great. If you look at their run to get here and our run to get here, both teams were way better offensively than you saw today. That happens in basketball at times, so you have to give our guys credit for hanging in there and grinding one out.”

“I think that’s just kind of how we’ve been all year. We got vets,” Edey said. “We got people that have been in a lot of important moments throughout these two years. You kind of see it when teams make a run and when we go on a run, we stay even. We stay the same team.”

Edey, a two-time national player of the year, led the Boilers with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Jones and Loyer contributed 14 and 11 points, respectively.

Jones and Loyer shoot 50% (7-of-14) from 3-point range to help mitigate Smith’s struggles.

“In a game like that when shots aren’t falling, they’re still encouraging me to play better defense, rebound, get assists, take care of the ball,” said Smith.

“Everybody has to contribute, if not, you’re not doing your job,” Loyer said. “Everybody has to help out. Everybody has to play hard. Us continuing to trust one another for one more day, for 40 more minutes, it’s what we need to do and what we will do.”

Purdue is trying to win the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The 1932 team, led by legendary John Wooden, won the Helms Foundation national championship.

The last time a Big Ten team won the tournament was Michigan State in 2000 at the RCA Dome.

This is the second time the Boilers have been to the title game, losing the 1969 final to UCLA.

They’ll play UConn on Monday night at 9:20 p.m. The Huskies beat Alabama, 86-72 in the second semifinal. They’re looking to become the first back-to-back champs since Florida in 2006-07.

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