Clemson, Purdue square off for Space Coast title

NCAA Basketball

Clemson and Purdue will attempt to avoid big trouble, quite literally, when they meet Thursday night in the championship game of the Space Coast Challenge in Melbourne, Fla.

Both teams were paced by freshman big men who made impressive college debuts Wednesday in first-round tournament victories.

Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4, 285-pound center, paced Purdue with 19 points in just 16 minutes of playing time as the Boilermakers cruised past Liberty 77-64.

Clemson’s PJ Hall, a 6-10, 235-pound forward, put up a team-high-tying 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Tigers’ 53-42 win against Mississippi State.

Both players served early notice that they are built for success sooner rather than later as their teams seek returns to the upper half of the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conferences, respectively.

“Zach obviously had a good night for us,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He does good things when he gets the ball in positions where he’s comfortable. I think that’s the best way to put it.”

Edey, who is from Toronto, apparently was comfortable for much of the night. He made 9 of 10 shots from the floor — not bad for a former multi-sport player who is just learning the fine points of the basketball court.

“He’s always been able to move,” Painter said. “He’s a hockey player. He’s a baseball player. His mobility is a big strength of his and he’s just going to keep getting better.

“When he gets the ball deep, if you don’t have somebody his size and he catches the ball at four feet, he’s going to have success.”

Hall can’t match Edey’s size, but he may be the top big man that coach Brad Brownell has been able to lure to Clemson in his 11 seasons at the helm.

The top-ranked player in South Carolina as a senior, Hall was named the 2019-20 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year. A four-star prospect, he was rated the No. 10 power forward in the nation and the No. 60 player nationally by ESPN.

Hall made 5 of 6 shots against the Bulldogs.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Brownell said. “I was very pleased. Obviously he was extremely efficient. He made some tough shots. This was a great experience for him tonight.”

Now Brownell gets to have a unique experience on Thanksgiving night as his team faces his wife’s alma mater.

“I’m friends with Matt Painter,” Brownell said. “I don’t love playing friends. My wife’s a Purdue grad, so I hope she’ll be cheering for the Tigers.”

–Field Level Media

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