Purdue Boilermakers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 15th 2024

Zach Edey has done just about everything a player can do in college basketball, including hitting a 3-pointer.

The 7-foot-4 Purdue center banked in his first career 3-pointer late in No. 2 Purdue’s 79-59 rout of Indiana on Saturday, inspiring a huge cheer from the sellout crowd at Mackey Arena.

The one item still on his bucket list is a national title. The Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) will continue to work toward that goal on Thursday night when they host Minnesota (15-8, 6-6) in a Big Ten game in West Lafayette, Ind.

Edey, who appears to be a consensus favorite to earn a second straight national Player of the Year award, contributed 26 points and 13 rebounds against the Hoosiers. He also made the shot that shocked at least one teammate, point guard Braden Smith.

“He told me in the timeout before, or when we were out before, and he was like, ‘Hey, hit me on the pop.’ I kind of just giggled,” Smith said. “I was like, ‘Dude, we’re only up 20. What are you doing?’ And it worked.”

Everything seems to work these days for the Boilermakers, who have won eight straight games — most of them by comfortable margins. Edey (23.3 points per game, 11.7 rebounds) is hitting 62.3 percent of his shots and keying the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense, which averages 85.1 ppg.

The presence of Edey commands double and triple-teams from most opponents, which helps account for Purdue hitting a Division I fourth-best 40 percent from 3-point range. Guards Lance Jones (12.8 ppg), Smith (12.7) and Fletcher Loyer (11.0 ppg) are all hitting at least 35.6 percent from deep.

Depth is another forte of the Boilermakers. Mason Gillis, who has started frequently in his career, is coming off the bench these days. He added three 3-pointers Saturday night and is shooting 48.5 percent from distance.

While Purdue will try to remain hot, Minnesota is in bounce-back mode after a come-from-ahead, 90-85 loss Sunday at Iowa. The Golden Gophers led by 20 with 16:11 left and still boasted a 77-65 lead with 7:40 remaining before being outscored 25-8 the rest of the way.

Minnesota lost its edge when leading scorer Dawson Garcia, who’s averaging 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, departed with a lower-body injury early in the second half. His team was outscored 45-23 after he left the game.

“He’s such a key part of just the confidence piece,” Gophers coach Ben Johnson said of Garcia. “The edge, even defensively. He’s our anchor, especially in a game like this. He kind of settles us. We were fighting the rest of the half to get that back.”

If he is unable to go, it would place more pressure on players such as 6-9, 255-pound Pharrel Payne to try to keep Edey in check. Players like Cam Christie (11.3 ppg) and Mike Mitchell (10.3 ppg) will have to step up their offense as well.

This will be the only meeting of these teams this season.

–Field Level Media

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