Purdue junior center Zach Edey has gotten the best of some of the country’s most talented giants.
From Gonzaga University senior Drew Timme to Duke University freshmen Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively to Michigan junior Hunter Dickinson, Edey has seen and handled his fair share of talent while leading the country’s No. 1 team to victory.
But Saturday against No. 21 Indiana men’s basketball, senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis bested Edey in the battle of the bigs. The Hoosiers topped the Boilermakers 79-74 behind a dominant, well-rounded showing from Jackson-Davis and his supporting cast.
[Related: INSTANT RECAP: No. 21 Indiana men’s basketball downs No. 1 Purdue 79-74, storms court]
Unlike showdowns against University of North Carolina junior Armando Bacot and University of Arizona juniors Azoulas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, Jackson-Davis didn’t go head-to-head with Edey. The two didn’t attempt crazy blocks or dunks on top of each other – at least, not for the entirety of the game.
Instead, each got a chance to show off his unique skillset and prove that the other couldn’t get in the way while asserting themselves as two of the front-runners for both Big Ten and National Player of the Year.
“Edey and Trayce are two of the top players in the country,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said. “They showed that tonight.”
The 7-foot, 4-inch Edey – as he has done all year – used his size to his advantage while grabbing 18 boards and recording 33 points, mostly coming in putback or turnaround fashion. Jackson-Davis, however, showed fans a different side of the big man: versatility.
“Just relying on my teammates, our game plan, just doubling the posts,” Jackson-Davis said. “It really brought us out to that lead and we cared it through the second half and rode it.”
By putting on a masterful display of explosiveness and ballhandling, Jackson-Davis ultimately provided the biggest spark in the Hoosiers’ victory. While it wasn’t all Jackson-Davis' load to carry throughout the 40-minute contest, his unwavering energy and leadership were the key difference-makers against the in-state rival.
Still, his stat line of 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocks was a sight to behold. Each All-American-caliber play seemed to come at the perfect time for the Hoosiers to carry or gain momentum.
“Trayce is fabulous – great person, great player,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “Tonight, he was physical. When he made moves and did stuff, our guys were bouncing off of him. It was impressive. He’s got a bright future.”
While Edey is certainly a force to be reckoned with, Jackson-Davis proved that he’s not unstoppable. The dominant double-double from Purdue’s big man was futile for the rest of the Boilermakers thanks to the combination of Jackson-Davis looming presence and the Hoosiers’ pestering help defense.
Saturday’s win might not have answered every single question about the Player of the Year race. But it proved that Indiana, when Jackson-Davis plays to his potential, is better than the best in the country.