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

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

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

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

Remarkably, Purdue coach Matt Painter was unimpressed.

“I thought he had an average game,” Painter said of Edey, who made six turnovers. “He’s a really good player. One of the best players in the country. If you have 24 and 12 and you played 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 offense.

Smith, the Southern Conference player of the year at Chattanooga before moving to Gonzaga in the offseason, went 5-for-5 from 3-run range. He scored in double digits for the first time since he was 15 in the season opener against North Florida.

“I just try to be ready when my number is called and whatever 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 each scored 10.

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

With Chet Holmgren leaving Gonzaga to turn pro after one season – 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 Florida’s IMG Academy, 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. However, he has logged just 23 minutes in the past four matches.

As 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 win last Sunday, Edey literally forms a even bigger problem.

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

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

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