Big time: Edey, Clingan meet in Purdue-UConn title showdown

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 07 Apr, 2024 at 09:39 PM

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two giant players will take center stage for one massive championship game.

UConn aims to become the first back-to-back NCAA men's basketball champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007 when the Huskies face the Purdue Boilermakers on Monday night.

The obvious matchup to watch is UConn's 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan against 7-4 Purdue star Zach Edey, the two-time men's college basketball player of the year. Clingan is likely the best center Edey will face this season.

"He does a lot of the things that don't get appreciated about big men. Like he has good hands, he has (a good motor), like he plays hard," Edey said of Clingan on Sunday. "He's physical. Some stuff that a lot of people don't notice about big men, he's pretty good at."

Clingan, a sophomore, looked forward to facing senior Edey when asked about it right after UConn's 86-72 win over Alabama in the Final Four on Saturday.

"I'm real excited. You play at this level to play big-time matchups, big-time games. I have a lot of respect for Zach Edey. He's a great player," Clingan said.

Clingan had 18 points, five boards and four blocks for the Huskies (36-3) against Alabama, while freshman Stephon Castle led UConn with 21 points.

Edey, meanwhile, is the first player in NCAA tournament history to have six straight games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He posted 20 and 12 for the Boilermakers (34-4) when they defeated North Carolina State 63-50 in the Final Four. Lance Jones (14 points) and Fletcher Loyer (11) combined to shoot 7-for-14 from 3-point range.

The Huskies will play in their sixth national championship game since 1999 -- the most of any team -- and are the first team since North Carolina (2016, 2017) to play in back-to-back title games. UConn has never lost a national championship game in five previous appearances.

UConn is 33-0 this season when leading at halftime and when it's scored at least 70 points in a game. The Huskies won their first five tournament games by an average of 25 points.

"The feeling just with the group is it's body blows, it's body blows, it's continue to guard, continue to rebound, execute our offense," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "Eventually there will be a breaking point opportunity that will present itself, especially in this tournament. For us, we have just played so well."

Purdue is going for its first national title. The Boilermakers are 10-0 against nationally-ranked teams this season, including a 92-84 win over then-No. 1 Arizona on Dec. 16 in Indianapolis.

Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said Sunday that he intends to "steal a couple of things" from what UConn does to enhance his program after this season.

"You have to be on your Ps and Qs," Painter said of facing the Huskies. "You gotta take care of the basketball. You gotta be able to rebound, be good in transition. If you take bad shots and you turn the ball over, you're in deep trouble. It's a quick two or a quick three for them. They're probably the best I've seen in a long, long time in being able to take your mistake and make you pay for it at times when you make mistakes."

--Jose M. Romero, Field Level Media