CHICAGO (AP) — Zach Edey draped the net around his neck and had no plans to relinquish it until whenever coach Matt Painter asked for it.
He wanted to soak up every last drop of this moment.
Edey scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and No. 5 Purdue hung on to beat Penn State 67-65 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday.
The Boilermakers (29-5) led by as much as 17 in the second half, only to have the lead shrink to one in the closing seconds. They came away with their second title to go with one in 2009. Not long after, Purdue was named a No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Edey, who was wearing a tournament championship cap and T-shirt to go with the net dangling from his neck. “Obviously we’ve got two nets, we’ve got two hats with the netting on them, we’ve got two trophies. It rewards the work that you’re putting in and validates all of it.”
Purdue won the Big Ten regular-season championship by three games and looked like it was well on its way to an easy victory in the conference tournament final. But Penn State (22-13) made things interesting down the stretch, particularly in the final minute.
Purdue led 66-60 when Myles Dread nailed a 3 with 16 seconds remaining. Evan Mahaffey then stole Brandon Newman’s inbound pass and fed Camren Wynter for a layup that made it a one-point game with six seconds remaining.
Purdue’s Fletcher Loyer then made a free throw before missing the second. Penn State’s Andrew Funk got the rebound, but after a timeout, Wynter got called for traveling just before the final buzzer.
“We’re fighters, man,” Penn State star Jalen Pickett said. “We got down, but we didn’t want it to end. We wanted to raise that trophy at the end, and we just kept fighting. Made our way back. We started pressing a little bit, causing them problems. That’s us gonna be us. We’re going to try and figure something out and we’re not going to give up until the end.”
Edey, the Big Ten Player of the Year, shook off the constant double teams and dominated again after scoring 32 points in the semifinals against Ohio State. The 7-foot-4 center made 12 of 17 shots, helping Purdue win its fifth straight after a rough patch late in the regular season.
David Jenkins Jr. scored 11 for the Boilermakers, who beat the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions for the 16th time in the past 17 games.
“We struggled at times, but our team is very connected,” said Mason Gillis, who scored 10 points for Purdue. “The chemistry is very high. We just have great people in our program.”
Penn State had won eight of nine to put itself in position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. The Nittany Lions were the third double-digit seed to reach the Big Ten final and first since Illinois in 2008.
Seth Lundy led Penn State with 19 points and Wynter scored 14. But the Nittany Lions — one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country — made just 7 of 23 from beyond the arc.
Purdue went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to break open a 43-38 game.
Edey and Caleb Furst got it started with layups, and Trey Kaufman-Renn finished it with a three-point play that stretched the lead to 52-38 with 10:10 remaining.
The lead hit 17 when Gillis nailed a 3 and Edey scored on a hook, making it 60-43 with 6:18 remaining.
“We couldn’t make an open shot, and we still won the game,” Painter said. “I know we’re up 17 and it looks easy, and they get going, but you still — you find a way to kind of get through it.”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had no answers for Edey and came up short on a day when the shots weren’t falling. But they could be a tough team to beat in the NCAA Tournament.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have steadied themselves after a 2-4 stretch and head into the NCAA with some momentum on their side. The big question remains whether they can make enough outside shots to support one of the nation’s best players in Edey.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions got the 10th seed in the Midwest and will face Texas A&M in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday. It’s their first trip to the NCAA since 2011, when they lost to Temple in the second round. Penn State was in position to make it in 2020, but the tournament got canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Purdue: The Boilermakers will meet the Fairleigh Dickinson-Texas Southern winner in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.
As reported by WTTV CBS4Indy