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Edey shines in homecoming as No. 4 Purdue beats Alabama in Toronto

Zach Edey Purdue Zach Edey - The Canadian Press

For Toronto native Zach Edey, it was a homecoming worth the five-year wait.

College basketball’s reigning Player of the Year had 35 points and seven rebounds on Saturday, carrying No. 4 Purdue to a 92-86 win over Alabama in Toronto in the opening game of the Hall of Fame Series.

It had the feel of a Purdue home game, with busses of fans making the trip from Indiana to support the Boilermakers, who won for the ninth time in 10 tries this season. 

“It’s amazing to be back,” Edey said afterward. “[The fans] came out, they showed love. Every time we needed a pick-me-up, the crowd was there for us…Every time we got in a little rut, the crowd was there for us.”

Unranked Alabama was strong out of the gate, scoring the game’s first eight points making eight three-pointers in the opening 10 minutes, leading by as many as 12 points in the first half. Edey didn’t register a point or rebound in the game’s first five minutes, but recovered to score 18 points before halftime, helping the Boilermakers trim the lead to two at break.

Purdue didn’t take its first lead until nearly nine minutes after halftime, but a pair of Edey dunks helped key a 24-6 run. 

The game turned into a battle of super seniors, with Edey and Alabama guard Mark Sears trading buckets all afternoon. After Sears gave the Crimson Tide a 77-76 lead on a three-pointer with 4:47 remaining, Edey answered with a dunk, and scored seven more points down the stretch to help Purdue pull away. 

For Edey, it was an opportunity to play competitively on home soil for the first time since 2018, when he transferred from Leaside High School in Toronto to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a top prep school that’s produced seven current NBA players, including fellow Canadian Dwight Powell.

“I think a lot of my friends and family haven’t seen me play, period,” Edey said. “The only time I was really in Toronto was AAU, my sophomore year of high school. To be able to come out and have lots of people come out to really support me, to show them the progress I’ve made…I’m very grateful Purdue scheduled this for me.”

In all, Edey played 37 minutes, made 12-of-20 field goals attempts and didn’t miss in 11 trips to the free throw line. He played with edge, even mixing it up with Alabama forward Nick Pringle during a testy exchange in the first half following a Pringle foul.

“A lot of times you get guys that size, and even when they’re good players, they don’t have the nastiness to them,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “They don’t have that fire…And he’s got it.”

Edey’s 35 points matched a season-high, and were accompanied by a career-high 27 from sophomore point guard Braden Smith. The pair worked the two-man game to perfection, with seven of Smith’s eight assists coming on baskets by Edey.

“I thought it was a fun game,” Smith said. “It was kind of intense, the crowd was in it. As a fan and as a player, just to see it go back-and-forth like that…I think it’s just interesting and keeps you on your feet. We kept doing our thing, came out on top, and that’s all that matters.”

Purdue won its second straight game after losing for the first time this season eight days ago against Northwestern. The Boilermakers have beaten three ranked teams already, but their next test will be their biggest – a home meeting against top-ranked Arizona next Saturday at home in West Lafayette, Ind.

Until then, they’ll have a chance to bask in a tough win. One that was well-deserved for Edey.

“He’s a cornerstone of our program,” Painter said.

“Just being able to schedule this game and get him back here was a great moment for him. And we should do this, for everything he’s done for us.”