Gonzaga men struggle on three-pointers, fall to No. 2 Purdue

HONOLULU — Gonzaga coach Mark Few has seen this before against Purdue, in person last year and on video this season.

It wasn’t any easier on his eye Monday when the second-ranked Boilermakers handled No. 11 Gonzaga for the second straight season at a holiday tournament.

Gonzaga’s promising first half gave way to a second half filled with costly turnovers and non-stop misfires from behind the three-point arc — miscues that good opponents aren’t about to let slide.

The Zags missed their final 16 three-point attempts, including all 13 in the second half, as Purdue erased a five-point halftime deficit and pulled away for a 73-63 victory Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.

“Listen, they’re good,” Few said. “There’s a reason why they’re ranked where they are. They have everybody back from last year. I was watching our game against Purdue last year and their Xavier game (last week) and it was those runs, things calm down and then more runs. That’s what they do.”

The Zags (2-1) take on Syracuse, which fell to No. 7 Tennessee 73-56, at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. The tournament was relocated to Honolulu due to the devastating wildfires in Lahaina in August.

It wasn’t an exact replay of Purdue’s 84-66 win at the PK85 last November in Portland, but it was similar on several fronts. The Zags struggled to score, putting up just 28 points in the closing half, and had a tough time dealing with Purdue’s offensive versatility.

Purdue scored the game’s first six points, but the Zags rattled off the next 14. When Ryan Nembhard hit a three-pointer, Gonzaga was 4 of 8 from distance and led 23-17.

The Zags veered way off course over the final 8:40 of the half. GU missed seven straight shots and 14 of 18, but still held a 35-30 halftime edge, thanks to its defense. Purdue hit just 2 of 12 shots to close the half.

GU’s offense remained out of sorts in the second half. They finished just 6 of 32 on threes. They made 54% on two-pointers but only had eight free-throw attempts. Purdue, which shot nearly 47% overall, had an eight-point edge at the line.

“Felt like we got some good looks, we just struggled making some shots,” said point guard Ryan Nembhard, who finished with 11 points and six assists but was 0 of 5 from deep in the closing half.

“If you looked at the threes we took, they were all good shots,” Few said. “Obviously that was a fairly big factor, but I thought the bigger factor is we turned the ball over too much in the second half. We can’t do that. We took really good care of it in the first half and just tried to force action in the second half.”

Nine of GU’s 14 turnovers came in final 20 minutes.

“The start of the second half was key for us,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “getting some transition baskets, getting some steals.”

Asked if fatigue — Nembhard logged 39 minutes — might have been a factor with the perimeter shooting, Few shook his head and said, “Just missing really good shots.”

The Boilermakers (4-0) came at GU in waves, big waves like 2023 national player of the year Zach Edey and forward Trey Kaufman-Renn, midsized waves like 6-foot-5 Myles Colvin and smaller ones like starting guards Braden Smith and Lance Jones.

The 7-4 Edey hit jump hooks from the middle of the lane on Purdue’s first two possessions, then went cold from the field. He still finished with 15 points in the opening half after hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final 4:28 of the half as Purdue closed within five at the break.

The 6-foot Smith kept Purdue in it in the opening half when GU was threatening to build a double-digit lead. He helped the Boilermakers dominate the second half and finished with 13 points, six assists and five steals.

“He’s tough, smart, just comes at you and hits tough shots,” Few said.

Colvin hit two three-pointers in the closing minutes to stretch Purdue’s lead. Kaufman-Renn provided three field goals with Edey on the bench. Jones scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

“They have lots of bodies and they’ve got a lot of good players,” Few said.

Graham Ike, who started fast with two three-pointers and 10 points in the first 6:30, Anton Watson and Ben Gregg ran into foul trouble taking turns defending Edey. Few was pleased for the most part with the rotation’s defense, particularly Ike’s, on Edey, who finished with 25 points and 14 boards. Edey’s tip-in gave Purdue the lead for good, 43-41 with 14:55 remaining.

“Not at all, not satisfied at all,” Ike, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, said of his defense. “We didn’t have the outcome we wanted. It’s on to the next game and it’s a quick turnaround.”

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