PORTLAND, Ore. - The start was hard to watch.
But the finish was a thing of beauty for Purdue.
The 24th-ranked Boilermakers started slow but took control against one of the nation's top team, running past No. 6 Gonzaga 84-66 on Friday night at the Moda Center in the Phil Knight Legacy.
Purdue advances to face No. 8 Duke in Sunday's championship game at 3:30 p.m. (ABC).
Zach Edey scored 23 points and Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith combined for 28 points and 12 assists.
How it happened: As beautiful as Thursday’s start was against West Virginia, Friday night’s beginning was a horror show. Purdue’s first five field goal attempts were 3-pointers, and it didn’t bother looking inside to Edey. The shooting woes put the Boilermakers in a 12-4 hole with 15:21 on the clock. But the freshmen in the starting lineup – Loyer and Smith – kept their team engaged and Purdue worked its way back. Loyer’s 3-pointer helped relax the Boilermakers, who used a 13-4 run to take a 20-18 lead. Edey settled down after a 1-for-5 start hit in his first three attempts of the first half. Purdue eventually led 31-23 on Trey Kaufman-Renn’s lay-in at the 1:33 mark. The play of Kaufman-Renn, Loyer, Smith, Caleb Furst and Brandon Newman was key in the final minutes before half as the Boilermakers led 33-28. The start of the second was a lot better as Purdue traded baskets with the Bulldogs, who leaned on All-American Drew Timme to answer each run. Newman’s 3-pointer with 13:04 to play stretched the lead to 49-40. The Boilermakers kept building the lead, extending it to 59-47 on Edey’s dunk with 8:07 to play.
Why it happened: The Boilermakers showed some early season toughness in what was basically a road game with the pro-Gonzaga crowd overtaking the Moda Center. They maintained their composure despite the rough start and took over down the stretch. Purdue owned the rebounding for most of the game and dominated in the second half. The Boilermakers limited Gonzaga to one shot on most possessions. When the bigs start hitting 3-pointers, the offense runs at a high level. Gillis and Furst each delivered big baskets from beyond the arc. Purdue kept its turnovers to a reasonable number after committing 18 the night before. Smith's floor game was exceptional in the second half, getting into the lane and feeding Edey and other post players. Newman's rebounding in the first half was big.
What it means: The Boilermakers made a statement Friday night and can deliver another in Sunday's championship game.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue basketball storms past Gonzaga, advances to Phil Knight Legacy title game