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Boilers prepare for second-round challenge from Aggies

Mar. 23—INDIANAPOLIS — Trey Kaufman-Renn's response was blunt and to the point.

Purdue's 6-foot-9 sophomore often has the task of banging bodies with 7-4 Zach Edey in the paint during practice, and he was asked Saturday what it is like trying to move the reigning national player of the year out of the blocks.

"It doesn't work. You can't. That's the short answer," Kaufman-Renn said. "You got to play differently. Yeah, I'm a big guy, but when you're going up against him every day, you don't feel that way.

"It's kind of funny when you go and play other teams. Sometimes I have to realize you are stronger than the other guys, but when you just face (Edey) all the time, it's difficult."

Grambling State can attest.

In the Boilermakers' 78-50 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Edey was 11-of-17 from the field, 8-of-14 at the free-throw line and poured in 30 points while pulling down 21 rebounds.

It was the first 30-20 game in the big dance since 1995 and just the second in the last 50 years.

None of which is lost on Sunday's opponent, eighth-seeded Utah State (28-6).

"Sometimes you can't," Aggies center Isaac Johnson said of devising a plan to stop Edey. "But I think what we can do is stop the rest of the team from doing some of the things that they do.

"I guess you can stop 'em down low, not much you can do when it's up high. So we'll do our best."

Utah State snapped a 10-game NCAA Tournament losing streak — dating to 2001 — with an 88-70 victory against TCU on Friday. And the Aggies are no pushover.

They were ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll of the regular season, and Purdue coach Matt Painter made it clear Utah State has his team's full attention.

"This is going to be a dog fight, all right?" Painter said. "It's going to be a dog fight. We've had a lot of experience here, all right, and we've had some disappointing days.

"There's no way we are looking past these guys. These guys are real."

The Aggies won the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship with an entirely new roster under first-year coach Danny Sprinkle.

It all starts with a pair of Sprinkle's former players from Montana State — wing Great Osobor and guard Darius Brown II.

Osobor leads Utah State with averages of 17.8 and 9.1 rebounds, and Brown averages 6.6 assists to go alongside 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds.

Ian Martinez (13.4) and Mason Falslev (11.3) also average double-figure scoring, but the Boilermakers (30-4) also must be concerned with the 7-foot Johnson — who could challenge Edey in unique ways.

Though he averaged just 6.8 points during the season, Johnson poured in 19 in the win against TCU. That performance included 2-for-4 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, and Johnson is a 35.2% 3-point shooter for the season.

"Without getting too specific into it ... we've dealt with a bunch of different styles all year," Edey said. "We've dealt with the shooting 5. We've dealt with the post-up 5. We've dealt with the rebounding, opposite dunker 5. Every single style we've played against, so we're ready for everything."

Utah State has similar confidence.

There's a healthy respect for everything the third-ranked Boilermakers have accomplished — including winning another Big Ten regular-season title — this year.

But at this point in the postseason — with just one day to prepare for the opponent — teams are far more concerned with playing their own game than stopping someone else's.

"Purdue's a really good team," Osobor said. "We are going to have our hands full, but I feel like we just need to be aggressive in everything we do tomorrow, whether that's trying to deny the post or when we do deny the post, don't let it get back out.

"So we'll try to do our best in making sure that we can limit what we can control. Control what we can control, and everything will take care of itself."