College football and college basketball writer
Note: Michael Cohen is sharing information on the action throughout the Big Ten tournament.
Game 1: Purdue 80, Ohio State 66
CHICAGO — The fans behind the Purdue bench rose to their feet with 38.9 seconds left in a game they nearly won. Head coach Matt Painter had fired star center Zach Edey after one of his most productive and explosive performances in a season full of them, and the Boilermakers faithful rewarded college basketball’s most unique player with a great joy A woman gave up her hands and bowed as if to signify that she was not worthy to be in the presence of such greatness.
The dominant Edey scored a game-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to power top-seeded Purdue to an 80-66 victory over No. 13 Ohio State in the first semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament d this year The Boilermakers advance to face the winner of No. 10 Penn State and No. 3 Indiana in the title game Sunday at 3:30 pm ET.
Freshman Roddy Gayle Jr. buried five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Buckeyes, whose run to an improbable NCAA Tournament bid was cut short in their fourth game in four days.
Gale winds Gayle
Late in Ohio State’s second-round win over Iowa on Thursday, freshman star Brice Sensabaugh asked to be substituted. Head coach Chris Holtmann assumed Sensabaugh, the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, was simply tired after playing 27 minutes in a game that unfolded at a breakneck pace in the second half . Sensabaugh had actually suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for the quarterfinals against Michigan State and, with a press release issued Saturday morning, would end his season entirely.
He is expected to declare for the NBA Draft.
“Brice has had an outstanding freshman season and has played extremely well down the stretch,” Holtmann said in the release, which was distributed before the semifinal between Ohio State and Purdue. “I know how much he wanted to play, and we’re disappointed for him. We’re proud of him and his continued development as a player and I know he’s looking forward to supporting his teammates again today.”
Holtmann filled Sensabaugh’s spot in the starting lineup with another true freshman, Gayle, a four-star prospect who was ranked No. 49 in the 2022 recruiting cycle and the top-rated player in the class of Ohio State. Gayle averaged 15.8 minutes per game this season as Sensabaugh and fellow freshman Bruce Thornton, the team’s starting point guard, got most of the attention. He came into the Big Ten Tournament having scored in double figures just once in a demolition of St. Francis 96-59 in a non-conference matchup.
But Gayle played a central role in propelling the Buckeyes to the quarterfinals by scoring all nine points and dishing out his only assist in the final six minutes of a 73-69 win over Iowa. He followed that up with a game-high 15 points in a 68-58 win over Michigan State, making all three of his shots from beyond the arc in 26 minutes.
“I was really proud of Roddy,” Holtmann said after beating the Hawkeyes. “He’s worked hard, and he’s had Bruce and other guys that have had really big seasons. Obviously, Brice is a freshman, and sometimes you can compare yourself to them, and it can bother you. I think it just is. I I kept the job. We’ve had a lot of conversations, and he’s stuck with it, he’s kept working. I was really happy for Roddy to see this moment, because we have a very high belief in what he’s going to be.”
Gayle saved his best performance for Saturday’s semifinal, which was Ohio State’s fourth game in four days. A 37.2 percent long-range shooter, Gayle opened with five consecutive shots from beyond the arc as the rookie Buckeyes built an eight-point lead in the first 12 minutes, turning a 2 -Edey points for momentum-stealing triples. When his fourth 3-pointer fell through the net, by which time Ohio State led 26-19, Gayle flashed a playful smile and clapped with joy.
The Buckeyes shot 7-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half to keep within striking distance of the Boilermakers, who led 42-34 at halftime.
Longer than life
In addition to Sensabaugh, the other Ohio State player who watched Saturday’s semifinal in sweats was starting center Zed Key, his left arm taped and tied in place after shoulder surgery which ended the season at the end of February. At 6-foot-8, 255 pounds, Key was one of two traditional options down in Holtmann’s rotation along with Felix Okpara, a raw but rapidly developing 6-foot-11 freshman from Nigeria.
Preparing to face the 7-foot-4, 305-pound Edey with minimal frontcourt depth is an impossible task, and the newly crowned Big Ten Player of the Year punished the Buckeyes with his unflappable streak of physicality that puts the referees in a bind.
Edey repeatedly hooked the lanky Okpara, who gave up 85 pounds to his counterpart, so deep in the paint that any well-placed inbounds pass turned into an easy hook, layup or dunk. And when Holtmann switched to a smaller lineup, which he did to great effect before the tournament against Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State, Edey displaced makeshift center Eugene Brown III like a rock crashing into a lake. The 6-foot-7, 195-pound Brown grimaced with every shoulder hit he absorbed, and there was a moment in the second half when Edey drove him out of bounds en route to a slam that gave Purdue a 57-43 lead. direct
Although he didn’t shoot a huge percentage, Edey paced the Boilermakers on an afternoon when fellow starters Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis and Ethan Morton combined for five points. He hit 12 of his 25 field goal attempts, which tied for a career-high 26 attempts in a 64-63 win over Michigan State in January, to record his sixth 30-point game of the year and his first. since February 4.
Edey never missed more than two consecutive shots in a team-high 35 minutes of play as Purdue pounded the Buckeyes, scoring 36 of its 80 points in the paint. He drew the fifth foul on Okpara with 2:19 remaining after grabbing an offensive rebound and going over his opponent’s chest for a traditional three-point play. Okpara gasped and choked back tears as Holtmann hugged him on the Ohio State sideline.
Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.
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