Zach Edey made his first imprint on the Gophers men’s basketball team only 23 seconds into Thursday’s game at Williams Arena.
On the opening possession, the Purdue center casually blocked Minnesota forward Josh Ola-Joseph’s shot in the paint. Five minutes later, Jamison Battle’s audacious dunk attempt on the 7-foot-4 Edey proved an awful idea as Edey sent the shot, and the Gophers forward, to the floor.
On the offensive end, Edey scored as many points as the entire Gophers team — 12 — in the first half. The second half wasn’t much better as No. 3 Purdue breezed past Minnesota, 61-39. It was the Gophers’ lowest point total since a 32-26 loss to Indiana at 1951, and their 12 first-half points were the fewest ever scored in a half against the Boilermakers.
“We were just flat and we let the offense kind of suck the life out of us,” Gophers head coach Ben Johnson said.
Minnesota (7-10, 1-6 Big Ten) had felt better after earning its first Big Ten win a week ago at Ohio State, but even that victory hasn’t aged well. The Buckeyes lost their fifth straight game on Wednesday, 63-60 to Nebraska.
Minnesota had a one-possession loss at Wisconsin and took Nebraska to overtime before the Ohio State win. But after being run over in a 78-60 loss to Illinois on Monday, that three-game stretch of positive play feels like a long time ago.
When Edey wasn’t swatting shots Thursday, Minnesota was just missing, shooting only 21 percent in the first half and 32 percent for the game. On pick and rolls, Edey was often in drop coverage, so the Gophers wanted to get into the post.
“My thought was if we can get downhill and get to a mid-range pull-up, or get somebody on a roll behind him — at least try to get two feet in the paint,” Johnson said. “I thought we were able to do that; we’ve just got to do it with more confidence.”
Battle, the Gophers’ second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game, injured his back in the last few minutes of the Illinois loss on Monday. He played Thursday but wasn’t himself and was held scoreless in 22 minutes, missing all nine of his shots.
Dawson Garcia picked up two fouls in the first half and was held scoreless in the first half. The U’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game finished with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Ola-Joseph came back after that game-opening swat to have a team-high 13 points in on 6-of-11 shooting. He was the only Gopher in double figures.
In the second half, Edey also blocked the shots of Pharrell Payne and Jaden Henley. He wasn’t needed on the offensive end, finishing with the six makes on nine attempts he had in the first half.
Edey had posted a then-career high 31 points and 22 rebounds in Purdue’s 90-75 win over the Gophers in West Lafayette, Ind., on Dec. 4.
Johnson said if he was told pregame that Edey would score 12 and grab six rebounds he would feel good about it, but the no-show from the Gophers on the offensive end was ghastly.
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