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Hawkeyes’ task: Don’t look like saps against the Big Maple, Zach Edey of Purdue
Edey is the National Player of the Year-in-waiting, and he and No. 1 Purdue host Iowa Thursday night
IOWA CITY — What do you with Zach Edey?
The answer from Edey’s opponents this season: Not much.
They may as well get on a stepladder and hand the 7-foot-4 junior from Toronto the National Player of the Year awards now. Edey is fourth in the nation in scoring (22.6 points per game) and second in rebounds average (13.2). He leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.627).
His Purdue team is 22-2, is in first place in the Big Ten, and ranked No. 1 in the nation. He has been the conference’s Player of the Week six times, one shy of Evan Turner’s league record set in 2010-11. His six 30-point, 10-rebound games are more than the rest of the Big Ten players have combined.
Iowa’s man in the middle, 6-foot-9 Filip Rebraca, what do you do to try to slow the player they call the Big Maple when your team faces the Boilermakers Thursday night in Purdue’s Mackey Arena?
“Just running him, you know,” Rebraca said Tuesday. “When we get a board, just running down the court and making him use his energy. So that’s where I can use my height disadvantage against him.
“You’re not going to stop him, just like any great player. But you can limit his touches, make him be less efficient.
“I have to make him catch the ball where he doesn’t want to catch it, maybe off the block, a tough pass or something.”
Rebraca has played 37 or more minutes on seven occasions this season, including 39 in Iowa’s 81-79 win over Illinois last Saturday.
“I feel like I can run all 40 minutes now,” he said. “I think that is an advantage.”
Edey, however, has upped his minutes per game from 19 last season to 31 this one, and averages just 1.7 fouls. He leads the nation in offensive rebounds, and had 10 at Indiana last Saturday in the Boilermakers’ 79-74 loss.
“He’s always been massive,” Iowa guard Connor McCaffery said, “but this year, you see the big jump, so you have to credit that to everything that he's been doing.
“He pretty much does the same thing, but it’s really, really hard to stop. You might as well get good at one thing and just perfect that. He’s not taking any 15-footers. He’s not stepping away, shooting post fades.
“He’s going to catch the ball, turn, and dunk it, or get the rebound and turn and dunk it.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery noted "You can sell out on (Edey) and they can make 15 3s on you. You have to be able to guard the paint. You've got to be able to guard the perimeter. You have to be able to guard the drive if you're going to beat this team.“
It’s a lot, and Rebraca will need defensive help. Someone who may be asked to provide it is 6-foot-10, 275-pound junior Josh Ogundele, who hasn’t played since Dec. 21. He returned to practice last week, and was in uniform with his right knee in a sleeve Saturday.
Ogundele’s career-highs in minutes (16) and points (7) came at Purdue last season in Iowa’s 77-70 loss. He played 10 minutes in the Hawkeyes’ 75-66 Big Ten tournament title-game win over the Boilermakers, contributing four points and a steal.
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