Edwards powers Purdue to NCAA second round

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - MARCH 21: Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers is helped up by his teammates after a play in the second half against the Old Dominion Monarchs during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at XL Center on March 21, 2019 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

HARTFORD, Conn. – Purdue can celebrate a third-straight first round win in the NCAA Tournament and also a healthy Carsen Edwards.

The Boilers’ All-Big Ten guard showed no signs of a sore back, scoring a game-high 26 points and playing the full 40 minutes in the Gold and Black’s 61-48 win over Old Dominion.

“I’m just glad my team won,” said Edwards. “Yeah, I played the whole 40, but you don’t even recognize it. You just be playing and trying to help your team win most of the game.”

“He’s not really concerned with outside noise,” said sophomore center Matt Haarms on Edwards. “He’s just doing his thing out there, and that thing is help us win. He played 40 minutes I think? Didn’t come off the floor. He was really big with us and we need him to be like that.”

Edwards’ backcourt mate Nojel Eastern injured his ankle pregame and missed the entire first half. The good news though comes in two parts. First, Eastern returned to the court in the second half.

“Something I wish that wouldn’t happen,” said Eastern, “but it’s basketball. Stuff happens. I was just trying to get back here to support my team.”

Second, freshman Eric Hunter stepped up in Eastern’s part-time absence, finishing his first career start with three assists and no turnovers.

“I had no time to get nervous,” smiled Hunter. “Zero time. That’s just a credit to my teammates just making me feel comfortable and confident in myself.”

The Boilers should be a confident group as a whole entering the second round of March Madness, but now the competition gets tougher. Next up will be 6-seed Villanova, the reigning NCAA Tournament champions. Tip-off time is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. Saturday with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.

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