The Vols were out of it, then right back in it, then they ran out of gas.
No. 2 seed Tennessee (31-6) was down by as much as 18 points in the second half, and No. 3 seed Purdue (26-9) looked like they were about to blow out the Vols. Tennessee couldn’t get their shots to fall, and the Boilermakers couldn’t miss.
But then the tables turned.
Tennessee trailed 51-33 with 16:19 to go in the second half, then they went on a 32-14 run to tie the game at 65-all with 6:58 to go. The Vols then took the lead on an Admiral Schofield three with 5:25 to go in the second half.
As impressive as the comeback was for the Vols, they could never get up by more than three points, and that cost them.
Lamonte Turner got called for a foul on Carsen Edwards as he attempted a three with 1.7 seconds left in the second half, and he was sent to the free throw line with the Vols up by two. Edwards missed the first free throw then made the next two to force overtime.
From there, Tennessee just hit a wall.
Purdue scored the first three points of the extra period, but Tennessee cut their lead to just one after Kyle Alexander shot free throws in place of Lamonte Turner after Turner got hurt when he was fouled. But that was as close as the Vols would get in overtime.
Tennessee couldn’t get shots to fall in overtime just like in the first half, and Purdue was able to attack several Vols in foul trouble and take UT out of their comfort zone. In the end, that’s how the Boilermakers prevailed, 99-94.
Things didn’t start well for Tennessee, but they found a way to recover.
The Vols hit the first shot of the game thanks to a Jordan Bone three-pointer, but that’s about the only thing that went the Vols’ way in the first half.
The Boilermakers led by as much as 15 in the first half, and their interior defense gave the Vols all kinds of fits. Tennessee was outscored 16-8 in the paint by the Boilermakers in the first half, and Purdue out-rebounded the Vols 21-17. Admiral Schofield missed all four of his field goal attempts and finished with just one point. Purdue shot 55.2 percent in the first half of play, while the Vols managed to make just 35.7 percent of their attempts.
What was the most stunning, though, was Tennessee’s inability to hit a free throw.
As a team, the Vols made just four of their 13 foul shots in the opening half. Jordan Bowden was an abysmal 1-of-6 from the charity stripe, and Schofield was just 1-of-4 from the line. The Vols came into Thursday’s game hitting 76.4 percent of their free throws on the season. They shot 30.8 percent in the first half against Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen.
Carsen Edwards totaled 15 points in the first half, and after missing his first three shots of the game, he closed the half nailing five of his nine attempts. As a team, Purdue hit seven of their 16 three-pointers.
All of that is how Purdue grabbed a 40-28 lead at halftime.
The second half started much the same way the first half ended.
Purdue grabbed an 18-point lead at one point to start the second half, and every Tennessee run was answered by Purdue in some form or fashion.
Then, the Vols finally found their shot, and they rallied for a furious comeback.
Tennessee went on one of their best offensive runs of the season to take the lead back on Purdue, and their defense was playing lights out. Admiral Schofield came alive, and after totaling just one point in the first half, he went off for 18 in the second half. The Vols led by three points three different times in the second half, but they could never make it a two possession game. Purdue was able to tie it up, and then they won the game in overtime, taking advantage of UT’s tired legs and foul troubles.
Here are our five biggest observations from the Vols’ overtime loss to Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen.
Lost at the Free Throw Line
Say what you want about the officiating (it wasn’t good at all, in my opinion), but the Vols lost this game themselves because of their terrible free throw shooting in the first half and overtime.
Tennessee was 4-of-13 from the free throw line in the opening half of play and made just three of their six shots from the line in overtime. The Vols redeemed themselves in the second half from the charity stripe, making 7-of-9, but just one more make in regulation would’ve likely given the Vols the game.
Instead, they’re heading home.
The Vols were just 14-of-28 from the free throw line. Tennessee entered the game shooting 76.4 percent from the free throw line, the 17th-best percentage in Division I college basketball. Thursday night’s performance from the free throw line was easily the Vols’ worst of the season. Their previous worst was when they hit just 12-of-20 free throws (60 percent) against Samford. The Vols also made 60 percent of their free throws against Gonzaga, but they only attempted 10 in that game.
Purdue wasn’t great from the free throw line either. In fact, they were worse overall than Tennessee, making just 16 of their 33 free throws. But they made more of their shots from the field than the Vols did, too.
Not Just a One Man Show
Coming into the game, Carsen Edwards was the top focus of Vol fans and for Tennessee’s defense. The Vols did okay guarding him and didn’t let him light them up, but Edwards had some help from his teammates, specifically a lights-out Ryan Cline.
Cline came into Thursday’s game averaging 11.7 points a game, and his season-high (and career-high) was 21 points. Against the Vols, he almost couldn’t miss.
The senior guard made seven of his 10 three-pointers and was 10-of-13 overall. He finished with a new career-high 27 points, and he did that in just 29 minutes. He got in foul trouble and ended up fouling out in overtime. If Cline hadn’t picked up fouls, there’s no telling what he could’ve done.
Edwards finished with a game-high 29 points, but he wasn’t super efficient. He made 8-of-22 of his shots overall, and he was just 5-of-14 from three. He was also uncharacteristically bad from the free throw line, only making eight of his 14 free throws.
Those two combined for 56 of Purdue’s 99 points, which was 56.6 percent of the Boilermakers’ points.
The Second Half
Tennessee shot 35.7 percent in the first half and just 30.8 percent from the free throw line. And the second half started out just as rough, as Purdue outscored UT 11-3 in the first four minutes of the half.
Then, the Vols said they’d had enough.
From that point on, the Vols went on a run and played some of their best offense and defense of the season.
Tennessee outscored Purdue 37-16 after trailing by 18 to grab a three-point lead with 5:25 to go. The Vols reversed their fortunes and capitalized on all their opportunities in that stretch.
The Vols made 66.7 percent of their shots in the second half, 70 percent of their threes, and 77.8 percent of their free throws. Not only that, but they limited Purdue down the stretch after the Boilermakers opened the second half making 69.2 percent of their shots. They finished the second half making 51.7 percent of their overall field goals that half.
In the end, Tennessee’s comeback effort fell short. But that rally was some of the best basketball the Vols played over the last month.
Just Couldn’t Stop Them
Tennessee’s perimeter defense didn’t play poorly in the first half for the most part. Usually, Purdue’s shooters had a hand in their face and the defense draped all over them. The interior defense wasn’t the greatest, but for most of the night UT’s defense was doing a good job of covering their men.
But it simply didn’t matter.
Ryan Cline in particular made some incredible, unbelievable shots for Purdue. Carsen Edwards made some eye-catching shots too, but Cline was hitting step-back threes and three-pointers with defenders right on top of him.
Sometimes, the shots just fall for you. And that’s exactly what happened for Purdue on Thursday night.
Season Ends in Disappointment
Much like the last team that was No. 1 in the AP Poll for the Vols, this season ends in the Sweet Sixteen.
The 2007-08 Vols were No. 1 for a week and ended the season 31-5. That team was also a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they met a No. 3 seed in the Sweet Sixteen. Louisville was the three-seed, and they ran Tennessee out of the gym. The Vols lost 79-60 in that game.
On Thursday, it felt much the same for this year’s team.
Purdue looked poised to blow Tennessee out of the water, but the Vols didn’t let that happen. They roared back, and then they had the game right in their hands. But they let it slip right through their fingers, albeit with a little help from the officials.
But in the end, the Vols have nobody to blame but themselves for the loss. They missed 14 free throws, let themselves fall into nearly a 20-point deficit, and committed some bad fouls.
The season ends on a low note, and the Vols didn’t get as far as they wanted or fans wanted. But the season as a whole isn’t a failure.