Purdue bests Tennessee in Sweet 16 OT epic after wild end to regulation

Henry Bushnell

For the second time in five days, Tennessee likely thought it had a wild NCAA tournament game won. It had a lead and mere seconds to hold onto it. Then, in the form of a critical mistake and controversial call, disaster struck.

The mistake, after a five-minute overtime period, proved to be a season-ender. No. 3 seed Purdue knocked off the second-seeded Vols 99-94 in OT to advance to the Elite Eight.

But it’s the end of regulation that everybody will be talking about – and that Tennessee will be ruing.

Wild 10 seconds send crazy game to OT

Four days after coughing up a 25-point lead to Iowa, then holding on to win in OT, the Volunteers flipped the script.

They had erased an 18-point deficit, and scored 31 points in 11½ minutes. They led by two on Grant Williams’ put-back slam with 8.8 seconds left:

Williams then denied Purdue’s Carsen Edwards at the other end with less than three seconds remaining. But on the ensuing inbounds play, with Tennessee up two, Vols guard Lamonte Turner fouled Edwards shooting a 3-pointer in the corner, giving Purdue life.

Edwards missed the first free throw, then calmly drilled the next two to tie the game.

With 1.7 seconds left, Tennessee tried to throw the ball to midcourt and call a timeout to set up a potential game-winning play from the sideline. But Williams, who caught the inbounds, then made a second pass before the timeout could be called.

With only 0.1 seconds on the clock by the time a ref acknowledge the timeout, the misguided play had all but ended Tennessee’s hopes of winning the game in regulation.

But after a borderline epic second half, no neutral fan was complaining about five more minutes.

Tennessee’s second-half comeback

The Volunteers trailed 40-28 at halftime. They couldn’t hit shots. They couldn’t corral Purdue’s crisp offense. They couldn’t defend the 3-point line or the paint.

And early in the second half, Purdue dug them a deeper hole. Ryan Cline came out of the locker room scorching hot. The first of his six second-half 3-pointers put the Boilermakers up 16. He followed it up with a 2-point jumper to extend the lead to 18.

But Tennessee climbed back into the game. A 12-0 run midway through the half turned a 65-53 deficit into a tie game.

From there, the two teams went back-and-forth. Cline was shooting out of his mind. He scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half, hitting six of his seven long-range attempts.

Admiral Schofield, however, was matching him. Tennessee’s senior leader had one solitary point in the first half, on 0-of-4 shooting and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. This came four days after Schofield benched himself for OT of the Iowa win.

But he rose to the occasion in the second half with 18 points, and was a major reason the Vols got back in the game.

At multiple points in the final minute, they appeared to have it won. But Cline’s heroics tied the game at 80 with under 40 seconds to go:

Williams put the Vols back in the lead, but Tennessee missed its chance to win the game in regulation when Turner fouled Edwards.

Purdue holds on in overtime

For 30 of the regularly scheduled 40 minutes, the story of Thursday’s first game in Louisville was Purdue’s offense. The Boilermakers go as Edwards goes. And Edwards was in top gear. He had 15 first-half points. He hit several contested jumpers. And Tennessee’s efforts to run him, Cline, Grady Eifert and others off the 3-point line left 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms room to operate inside.

Purdue’s offensive efficiency never really dissipated, either. Tennessee simply matched it for 10 whirlwind second-half minutes. But the Boilermakers, over 45 minutes, hit 15 of their 31 deep bombs. They scored 1.30 points per possession. And that number would have been higher if not for a dreadful 16-for-33 mark from the free throw line.

It was thus fitting that Tennessee cooled off in overtime. Purdue kept churning. It got to the rim. It got to the line, where its misses prolonged the end of OT, but where it eventually polished off an impressive win.

It will play top-seeded Virginia after the Cavaliers won a slog against Oregon on Thursday. And although few have been talking about the Boilermakers as a true contender, they are now one win away from the program’s first Final Four since 1980.

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