Top-seeded Purdue routs Grambling State to open NCAA Tournament

Mar. 22—INDIANAPOLIS — If a building is capable of exhaling, that might best describe the immediate postgame reaction Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Zach Edey put together another dominant performance, Braden Smith masterfully ran the show and top-seeded Purdue avoided another historic upset with a 78-50 first-round NCAA Tournament victory against No. 16 seed Grambling State in front of a heavily partisan crowd.

"We just did what we were supposed to do," Edey said. "I don't think anybody on this team wants any praise for it. We don't expect any praise for it. We did what we were supposed to do, and we're on to the next game now."

Early in the second half, Edey became the first men's basketball player in NCAA history with at least 800 points, 400 rebounds, 50 assists and 50 blocked shots in a single season.

He had a double-double by halftime and finished with 30 points, 21 rebounds and two emphatic blocks. Edey checked out for the final time with Purdue leading 63-43 and 6:35 remaining.

The Tigers (21-15) threw waves of defenders at the 7-foot-4 giant, but both 6-11 Jonathan Aku and 6-11 Malik Lamin picked up their fourth personal foul early in the second half, and there was little left on the Grambling State roster to stand against Edey.

"I don't think nobody has seen anything like Zach Edey," Grambling State guard Kintavious Dozier said. "That's kind of unreal. What they say he is on paper, he's exactly that."

Lance Jones' 3-pointer at the 18-minute mark gave the Boilermakers a 42-29 lead and effectively ended the competitive portion of the contest.

The Boilermakers (30-4) seemed to unleash a year's worth of pent-up frustration in the second half, steadily pulling away and erasing all memories of last year's historic upset loss against Fairleigh Dickinson in Columbus, Ohio.

The lead peaked at 28 points when Jones connected on another 3-pointer to make it 74-46 with 3:40 remaining before senior Carson Barrett matched it with his own 3-pointer for the game's final basket.

Smith also posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes.

"I mean, 10 assists, no turnovers, that's an insane stat," Edey said. "I don't think people realize that. People don't realize how much that helps a team. He's under control all the time. He's ready.

"We ask him to do a lot, and he steps up and delivers every time."

Trey Kaufman-Renn reached double figures with 11 points and added seven rebounds for Purdue, and Camden Heide and Fletcher Loyer scored eight points each.

In a sign of the biggest difference from last year to this season, Purdue sank nine 3-pointers against Grambling State. The Boilermakers were the second-best 3-point shooting team in the country this year at 40.8%.

"The tough part about it is that when you run two people at (Edey), then he's good enough to kick it out for threes, and that's one of them things that you've got to pick your poison," Tigers coach Donte' Jackson said, "and hopefully you've got enough bigs that can kind of battle with him and have enough fouls to give and hope he's having a bad free-throw shooting night."

Purdue had some trouble shaking the Tigers in the first half.

The Boilermakers opened a 29-19 lead on a 3-pointer by Loyer with 8:03 remaining before Edey took a quick breather.

With the big man on the bench, Grambling State scored four straight points to stop the bleeding.

And when Mikale Stevenson scored on a short jumper with 3:37 left, Purdue's lead was down to 31-27.

That surely sent shivers through a pro-Boilermakers crowd.

But Loyer answered with a 3-pointer at the 1:32 mark then capped the first-half scoring with a layup to give Purdue some breathing room at the break.

Edey had 16 points and 12 rebounds at intermission, Smith added nine points and four assists and Loyer scored all eight of his points in the opening stanza.

Grambling State remained in striking distance, however, in part because the Boilermakers coughed up the basketball five times and shot just 4-of-10 from the free-throw line.

Dozier also kept the Tigers competitive, driving fearlessly into the lane and scoring 12 points before intermission. He finished with 16, and Tra'Michael Moton led Grambling State with 21 points.

Purdue will face the winner Utah State, an 88-72 winner against TCU in Friday's late game, on Sunday at 2:40 p.m.

Another heavily partisan crowd likely awaits the Boilers, but coach Matt Painter said that advantage is only as good as his team makes it.

"You can be in Indianapolis. You can have all your fans you want, but if you don't give them something to cheer about, they can't help you," Painter said. "So you've got to play the right way, and you've got to be tough on defense, and that's our goal to go out there.

"And we've put ourselves in a good position, but you've still got to do the little things and execute and help that out. Now you have an advantage when you play the right way and you do things the right way."