Rick Barnes on officiating against Zach Edey: 'He's a difficult guy for referees to officiate'

On3 imageby:Sam Gillenwater04/02/24


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Frustration in the way that referees officiate Zach Edey have become quite loud amidst Purdue’s season, especially with the Boilermakers now in the Final Four. He’s just a tough cover and a challenge to make calls for, though, according to Rick Barnes.

Barnes spoke about the difficulty of dealing with Edey, including in regards to the referees, following the 72-66 loss for Tennessee to Purdue in the Elite Eight. Edey is just, in his opinion, as individual as they come at his size and skillset, which can be a handful when he starts attempting to make space down low.

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“You’ve got a very unique player in Zach Edey, very unique,” said Barnes. “It’s a hard game to officiate.”

“He’s an extremely physical player, does a great job wedging with his body,” Barnes explained. “I thought all along his misses are the hardest thing to defend because he does lead strong. He’ll bounce you off and try to create a crack and step through it. That’s where he’s improved so much with his footwork.”

The way that Edey clears space often puts his opponents in compromising positions. That’s especially with the frequency in which he gets the balls with how often his teammates post him. That puts the defense in a bind because the help can only come down and do so much.

“Space on the court is so important, and depending on how a guy gets there and you try to keep him from getting there and the effort that goes into that oftentimes can get one guy in particular there out of position to where he can maybe help on some other different things,” Barnes said.

“He’s an extremely difficult guy to guard because, again, knowing where he wants the ball. And he’s got a group of guys around it that know how to get it to him at the right time,” said Barnes. “As much as you try to scheme to get guys down there to try to take some space away, all you can do is go down and dig at it and try to help – hope you can come up with some deflections.”

Edey posted a career-best game in Detroit against the Volunteers. That was what got the Boilermakers to their first Final Four since 1980. He went for a 40-point, 16-rebound double-double by going 13-21 (61.9%) from the field. He also, much to the irritation of some watching, went to the free-throw line 22 times with 14 makes.

Those came via an edge in fouls for the Boilermakers of 13 whistles. Five players for Tennessee had three or more fouls, including Tobe Awaka and Jahmai Mashack fouling out and Josiah-Jordan James having four himself.

Whether with fouls or three-second calls, the way that referees handle Edey sometimes can annoy the audience. Still, it’s just how it is with a player like him when you combine his talent as well as his abnormal size in Barnes’ eyes.

“We fouled – I haven’t even really looked at the stats. It’s hard,” said Barnes. “I can tell you. He’s a difficult guy to guard against but he’s a difficult guy for referees to officiate too. I don’t care what anybody says. He’s a hard guy to do that with because he’s a unique guy in terms of how he plays.”

“I think it’s hard for officials because there’s not many guys like that. The game has changed so much through the years. Whether you stay in the lane three seconds or you don’t, if you don’t ever get out? It really distorts everything,” Barnes said. “I’m not saying he did or he didn’t but, watching tape, he’s a difficult guy to officiate. I can tell you that.”