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WATCH: Rick Barnes, Tennessee Players React to Season Ending Loss to Purdue

Rick Barnes
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. Photo via NCAA Communications.

Tennessee’s memorable season officially comes to a close with a loss to Purdue in the Elite Eight of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. The Vols fell to the Boilermakers by a score of 72-66 on Sunday afternoon in Little Caesars Arena.

Tennessee finishes the year with a top-eight finish, an SEC regular season championship, the SEC Player of the Year (Dalton Knecht), the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Zakai Zeigler), and a 27-9 record after a 3-1 run in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Barnes also eclipsed 800 career wins as a head coach this year.

While sometimes game previews and predictions don’t end up coming to fruition, Sunday’s game did. Those who expected a battle between the top two players in the nation found it with Dalton Knecht vs Zach Edey. Knecht recorded 37 points in the loss while Edey totaled 40 points and 16 rebounds in the win. As great as Knecht was, though, Tennessee couldn’t put up enough around him to power past an elite Purdue team.

Sunday’s contest was the last game in a Tennessee uniform for four players: Knecht, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, and Colin Coyne. Vescovi made his return to the court on Sunday after missing the Sweet 16 due to illness but still looked to be in rough shape despite his hardest efforts to get on the court.

“It’s hard to put into words, like the pain that I feel right now, but it’s even harder to put into words like the joy and the happiness I’ve gotten from being around this team, this university for the past five years,” James said after the game. “These guys mean so much to me. I can’t really describe it, but I love them. I love them so much.”

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes met with the media after the game to discuss his reaction to the contest. Barnes talked about his admiration for his team, Dalton Knecht’s play and future, defending Zach Edey, officiating in the game, and much more. Tennessee also had Knecht, James, and Zakai Zeigler speak with the media after the loss as well.

More from RTI: Three Quick Takeaways as Tennessee’s Season Ends At Hands Of Purdue In Elite Eight

Check out both Barnes and the player’s postgame press conferences below:

Tennessee HC Rick Barnes

Tennessee Players (Knecht, Zeigler, James)

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