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No. 6 Gonzaga braces for Zach Edey, No. 24 Purdue

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Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) looks for an open teammate during NCAA men   s basketball game against the Milwaukee Panthers, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won 84-53.

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Credit: Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Efton Reid III played just three minutes for No. 6 Gonzaga in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.

The 7-foot transfer from LSU figures to see more playing time against No. 24 Purdue in Friday night’s semifinals in Portland, Ore.

That’s because the Boilermakers (4-0) feature 7-4 center Zach Edey, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds in an 80-68 victory against West Virginia.

Remarkably, Purdue coach Matt Painter wasn’t impressed.

“I thought he had an average game,” Painter said of Edey, who committed six turnovers. “He’s a really good player. One of the best players in the country. When you get 24 and 12 and you had an ‘average’ game, that’s pretty cool. He’s a weapon.”

Mason Gillis added 14 points for the Boilermakers, who shot a season-high 51.1 percent from the field, and Brandon Newman came off the bench to score eight points.

The Zags (4-1) defeated Portland State 102-78 in the opening round as Malachi Smith scored a season-high 23 points to lead a balanced attack.

Smith, the Southern Conference’s player of the year at Chattanooga before transferring to Gonzaga in the offseason, was 5-for-5 from 3-point range. He scored in double figures for the first time since getting 15 in the season opener against North Florida.

“I’m just trying to be ready whenever my number is called and what I’m asked to do,” Smith said.

Preseason All-American Drew Timme scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and grabbed six rebounds for the Zags. Rasir Bolton added 14 points and a career-high eight assists, Hunter Sallis scored 12 and Julian Strawther and Anton Watson tallied 10 apiece.

“That’s what makes this team special, we’ve got multiple players that can do multiple things,” Smith said.

With Chet Holmgren having departed Gonzaga after one season to turn pro — he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder — the Zags were left without a shot-blocker in the post.

Enter Reid, the only LSU player to start all 34 games last season. A former five-star recruit from IMG Academy in Florida, he averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as a freshman for the Tigers in 19.6 minutes per game.

Reid had eight points and as many rebounds in 12 minutes in the season opener against North Florida. He has logged just 23 minutes in the past four games, however.

While the 6-10 Timme and 6-8 Anton Watson took turns defending Kentucky’s 6-9 Oscar Tshiebwe, the NCAA’s reigning player of the year, in an 88-72 Gonzaga victory last Sunday, Edey literally presents an even larger problem.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose team played the final game on Thanksgiving night, said his team noted some of the earlier results in the 16-team invitational tournament, as Portland pushed No. 1 North Carolina and No. 8 Duke nearly lost to Oregon State.

“There’s good teams out here if you’re not quite ready to go or at your best, you can get knocked off,” Few said. “I think that actually helped us firm up our approach.”

–Field Level Media