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Canadian Edey scores 35 points to lead No. 4 Purdue past Alabama in Toronto

Zach Edey Purdue Zach Edey - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Zach Edey's return home was one for the books — both literally and figuratively.

The Toronto native matched his season high of 35 points as the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers took a 92-86 win over Alabama on Saturday in the Hall of Fame Series at Toronto's Coca-Cola Coliseum. Edey passed Robbie Hummel for 10th on Purdue's all-time career scoring list.

"Being able to say I'm top 10 in Purdue scoring is kind of a surreal thing," Edey said. "You see the names on that list of all-time Purdue greats, to be up there with them is definitely an honour."

"For the city, it's amazing to be back," he added. "They really came out, they showed love, they supported. Every time we needed a pick-me-up, the crowd was there for us. Every time we got in a little run, the crowd was there for us. It was amazing."

At game's end, he waved at the crowd to an ovation and was met with hugs from coaches and teammates. He was also greeted on the court by his mother, Julia, with hugs and a short chat, and he received a T-shirt that members of his family wore during the game, which he then put over his jersey.

Family members were decked out in yellow T-shirts reading "Welcome to Zach's House" in black print with a Maple Leaf.

"It's fun. I mean, the family’s excited. My friends are excited. We got a group of, I don't know, 70 or 80 people here," Julia Edey told The Canadian Press pre-game.

"It's just something amazing that Purdue has done," she added. "Zach hasn't been able to come home in quite a while. When he is home, he's training with the Canadian team.

"So this is just something else. This is fantastic."

It was Edey's first time playing in Toronto since grade 10, when he got his start in basketball. The 21-year-old spent his final two years of high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"He's got a lot of pride being from Canada," Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. "Being able to schedule this game and get him back here was a great reward for him. He has a lot of friends and family who've never seen him play in person, never been to Purdue.

"We should do this for everything he's done for us. … We kind of mould around our players, really mould around our best players. He's a guy that's sacrificed."

Edey is the NCAA's reigning national player of the year and the seven-foot-four senior centre is considered a leading candidate to win the honour again this season. Entering Saturday, he ranked as the third-leading scorer (23.7) and sixth-leading rebounder (11.2) in the country.

"He's the cornerstone of our program," Painter said. "He's been great, his work ethic since Day 1 has been great. He enjoys basketball, he's competitive, he's got a fight to him.

"He wants to win. … He affects winning in a lot of ways."

Alabama jumped out to a 19-9 edge in the opening five minutes, playing Purdue aggressively on defence.

Edey scored his first basket 5:15 in, taking a bump on a layup, and the ball swirling around the rim a few times before going down. He also hit the free throw.

Edey added another highlight play with an alley-oop dunk with 7:43 remaining. A couple of possessions later, he threw down another dunk to cap a 9-0 Purdue run and make it a 31-29 game.

The big man led all scorers with 18 points but Alabama went into halftime up 49-47.

In the second half, down 60-57, the Boilermakers got hot from distance. Purdue hit four three-pointers as part of a 16-4 run with 8:06 left and took its first lead.

Edey tied Hummel with his 26th point — and 1,772 for his career — on an emphatic dunk after spinning off a defender in the post with 5:54 remaining.

Alabama took its lead back, 76-75, with 4:49 left when Mark Sears hit a three after Mohamed Wague only made 1-of-2 free throws following an Edey flagrant foul.

However, it was short-lived as Edey went on a personal 5-0 run to put Purdue back up with 3:43 left and the Boilermakers held on the rest of the way.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2023.