March Madness: Purdue overwhelms Gonzaga with barrage of 3s, plenty of Zach Eddy to advance to Elite Eight

Purdue's offense is much more than Zach Eddy's. It's a lesson Gonzaga learned the hard way on Friday as the Boilermakers earned an 80-68 win over the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga focused its defense on Eddy early, frequently teaming up with him in the post and in the pick-and-roll. Purdue's deadly half-court offense responded with 7-of-13 shooting from 3-point range in the first half.

When Gonzaga responded by showing Eddy one-on-one coverage in the second half, he backed away from his smaller defender and scored. It's a deadly inside-out combination that has Purdue near the top of the short list of remaining national title contenders.

Gonzaga has been keeping up with the pace…for a while

For most of the game, Gonzaga continued to keep up with its red-hot offense. The Bulldogs shot 51.7% from the field in the first half and kept things close as Purdue led 40-36 at halftime. When Purdue pulled away early in the second half, Gonzaga responded with a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to two points.

But Purdue eventually downed Gonzaga. Gonzaga senior forward Anton Watson went to the bench with his fourth foul with 12:33 remaining and Purdue leading 53-51. Purdue responded with a 14-2 run to extend the lead to 67-53. game over.

Zach Eddy celebrated and got plenty of help from Purdue's lethal attack in the half court.  (Gregory Shamos/Getty Images)

Zach Eddy celebrated and got plenty of help from Purdue's lethal attack in the half court. (Gregory Shamos/Getty Images)

Graham Ike, another Gonzaga big man who has the unenviable task of guarding Edey, was fouled with 5:07 left and Purdue leading 72-59, adding to the Bulldogs' woes.

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When that was done, Eddie scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while shooting 10 of 15 from the field. As a team, Purdue shot 57.1% from the field and 45% (9 of 20) from 3-point range. Three Purdue players joined Eddy in scoring in double figures. Gonzaga shot 49.2% from the field and 31.6% (6 of 19) from 3, and it wasn't nearly enough.

Purdue has done this all season

This is nothing new for Bordeaux. Eddie rightly gets the lion's share of attention as a two-time consensus national player of the year, a 7-foot-4-inch powerhouse athlete with no physical presence in college basketball. But he's been surrounded by elite shooters all season, a big difference between this year's team and last year's team that lost to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Purdue entered Friday as the No. 1 team in the country in 3-point shooting with a remarkable 40.9% success rate from long distances. Last year's team shot 32.2% from 3, good for 291st in the nation.

This difference makes Purdue a virtually unstoppable team when their shots are falling, which is often the case. And that's exactly what Purdue Gonzaga faced on Friday night.

Braden Smith was Eddie's co-leader against the Bulldogs. The player almost achieved a triple double with 14 rebounds, 15 assists, and 8 rebounds. He shot 6 of 11 from the field and 2 of 4 from 3-point range. Lance Jones added 12 points while shooting 5 of 10 from the field. Smith, Jones, Fletcher Loyer and reserve guard Mason Gillies each hit two 3-pointers, providing the Bulldogs with a constant option to pick their poison.

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The Boilermakers are now just a short shot away from a Final Four that was out of their reach last season. They face Tennessee on Sunday for the right to advance to next weekend.

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