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No. 1 Arizona, No. 3 Purdue tangle in Indy

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The focus will be on the big men when No. 1 Arizona plays No. 3 Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis.

One of the best nonconference matchups of the college basketball season starts down low, where the Boilermakers (9-1) unleash 7-foot-4, 300-pound senior Zach Edey, an All-American who is averaging 24.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Arizona (8-0) counters with 7-foot, 260-pound senior Oumar Ballo (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and a freshman whose size helped him pick up the nickname “Mount Krivas.” Moteijus Krivas (8.9, 5.0) is 7-2, 260.

Both will be needed against Edey, who averages 11.6 free throws per game.

“He has a really good understanding of how to use his body and take advantage of his size, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s the most impactful player in college basketball,” said Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd.

“It’s an incredible challenge. He does get fouled a lot. We’ve got to do a good job of being aggressive and playing physical basketball, which is how we normally play.”

The Wildcats are rolling on both ends of the court, coming off a 98-73 home victory over then-No. 23 Wisconsin. The score marked the most points allowed by the Badgers since the 1994 NCAA Tournament.

Through Wednesday’s games, fast-paced Arizona was second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and sixth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Highlighting the magnitude of this matchup, the Boilermakers are ninth defensively and third on offense.

Caleb Love leads five Arizona players in double figures, averaging 14.1 points per game. Keshad Johnson averages 12.6 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds.

Purdue won the Maui Invitational with wins over Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette, and is coming off a neutral-court victory over Alabama in which Braden Smith scored 27 points to support Edey’s 35. The combined 62 points were the most for a Purdue duo since Glenn Robinson (44) and Cuonzo Martin (29) in a 1994 NCAA Tournament game.

Smith, a point guard, achieved a career-high scoring total and added eight assists and only one turnover in 37 minutes.

The Boilermakers aren’t a one-man band, but clearly everything starts with Edey.

“He’s a cornerstone of our program,” said coach Matt Painter. “If you come and double him, he’s a willing passer. If you don’t, then we always tell him to score the basketball. He affects winning in a lot of ways.”

Ballo is coming off his best game of the season, with 15 points and nine rebounds, shooting 7 of 8 from the field, against Wisconsin.

“We passed that test and now we’re on to definitely bigger things,” Lloyd said. “(Oumar) has made a drastic improvement over the last couple of seasons and expectations continue to rise.”

Purdue, whose only loss came against Big Ten foe Northwestern, has the nation’s longest nonconference winning streak at 32 games, which is the longest such streak for any team since the 2010-11 season. Arizona has the second-longest active streak at 19 games.

–Field Level Media

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