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March Madness scores and live updates: Edey, Purdue cruise to Sweet 16, NCAA Men’s Tournament games tonight, bracket

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INDIANAPOLIS – As the Purdue bus followed its three motorcycle police escorts down South Street en route to Gainbridge Fieldhouse, it happened upon the intersection with Maryland Street. One policeman dashed ahead and gave two buses waiting to make the turn the stiff arm, putting his hand up to signal that the buses wait to allow the Boilermakers to continue ahead.

The first bus belonged to the Utah State band, the second to the basketball team. Never has there been a more apt metaphor. Purdue stopped the Aggies dead in their tracks, delivering a second-round humiliation that felt personal. Not, mind you, against Utah State. Despite Matt Painter’s end of pregame speech to “shove it down their throat,” the intended receivers were not the overmatched team from Logan, Utah; it was against everyone and anyone who has considered the Boilermakers not worthy, not real, not good enough.

This was an exorcism and a statement, Purdue gifting its happy fans with a 106-67 parting gift as it heads to Detroit for a Sweet 16 date with Gonzaga.

The Boilermakers knew they had to win their first-round game; they also knew that once they did, the goalposts would move again. Now it’s about proving that Purdue isn’t somehow fatally flawed, that its style of play can survive this three-weekend tournament. The answer came at about the eight-minute mark of the first half, Purdue turning an uncomfortable 25-24 game into a rout that ended with the scrubs in the game, swishing threes like the starters, Lance Jones’ pointing to the scoreboard as he exited the game, and Zach Edey chilling on the bench with a towel around his neck. The box score read like a near work of art, the Boilermakers dishing 29 assists on 37 made field goals, mixing up 11 3-pointers with 44 points in the paint, following Painter’s constant harping to crash the boards to the tune of a 49-26 advantage. Four players finished in double figures, including, of course, Edey.

Much to the consternation of the Utah State fan who, from a safe zone of 30 feet and a table away, screamed over and over again that Edey is soft, the Big Maple finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three assists. He sent Utah State’s two big men to the bench with two fouls early and treated the rest of the Aggies like Godzilla used to treat the airplanes in those old black-and-white movies.

This, of course, will not be enough either. The Boilers have reached the Sweet 16 six times under Painter and have but one Elite Eight to show for it (albeit an epic regional final loss to Virginia in 2019). There’s only one final destination for Purdue and that’s Phoenix, the site of the Final Four.

But perhaps this will question at least some who think if they’ve got the engine to get there.





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