Purdue 99, Tennessee 94, OT
Tennessee is a team of halves. They ran Iowa out of the building in the second round, then let them all the way back on the court and nearly to a win before recovering in OT. They then swapped roles and let Purdue run them out of the building before coming all the way back and nearly to a win before falling in OT.
Naturally, Purdue’s first Elite Eight appearance since 2000 couldn’t come easily. I’d said earlier that Good Purdue could make the Final Four and Bad Purdue could lose in the second round; we saw both sides tonight. The Boilers were up 18 early in the second half; Tennessee took the lead back twice late. Ryan Cline hit nearly everything he touched; Carsen was 8 for 22 overall and 5 for 14 from three. Haarms and Williams were solid inside in the first half; Purdue hit just 16 of 33 from the line.
The Boilers won.
As an Ann Arbor native and a graduate of Bloomington North, I can tell you what it’s like to see a school I root for make the Final Four and even win a national title. As a Purdue grad, I have no idea. Uh, sort of. I did see four of the women’s games in 1999, and that was awesome, but this is different because more people follow it.
ANYWAY. This is closer than most Purdue teams have ever been in the lifespan of most of you, and this team is arguably in a better position than that 2000 team; Gonzaga knocked out St. John’s so Purdue didn’t face them, and the Good Guys won their first two games by five total points before squeaking past the 10-seeded Bulldogs and falling to 8-seed Wisconsin. This team thumped the defending champs and pulled out a last-second regulation tie (with an assist from incompetent officials, who for a change favored Purdue) before knocking out a Volunteer team that never fell below 12 in kenpom and were arguably the best team in the SEC, taking two of three from a Kentucky team that plays tomorrow night.
This team shoots threes like I drop random facts on Twitter; they make hustle plays at both ends of the court (Eifert, man); they make you earn the points you get. Usually. They managed to turn a mediocre defense into a top-30 outfit by the end of the season; since January 1 they’ve been a top-20 defense according to Torvik, with the Good Guys playing the fourth-best basketball in the country in that time.
Virginia is number two.
(no that wasn’t one of us but thank you for suggesting it)
THE WIN ARE YOU KIDDING ME DO YOU REALLY NEED ME TO SAY IT A WIN IN THE SWEET 16 - AN UPSET WIN - IS THE BEST THING EVER
Sorry, that happens sometimes. CAPS LOCK ALTER EGO gets loose. Ryan Cline, obviously. 29 minutes, 27 points, 7 for 10 from three, 3 for 3 from two (all long twos), 4 assists, no turnovers, and he didn’t miss any free throws. Kidding! He didn’t shoot any either. The downside of those magic stepback/fallback threes is that you cannot touch him.
Carsen managing to salvage a bad game by hitting 8 free throws and ending up with 29 points, including the two key points to get to OT by drawing a foul even Reggie Miller would be proud of.
Nojel attacking the glass and getting rebounds and a steal and being in the way. Yeah, he missed a couple of free throws. He also annoyed every player he guarded.
Grady Eifert, just one three away from a Sweet 16 double-double, with 10 boards (3 on the offensive end) and 4 of 6 at the line.
Aaron Wheeler, 2 of 3 behind the arc, 4 boards, 1 impressive block, and valuable bench minutes.
Trevion Williams, getting 6 big-man rebounds, including 4 on offense, and only getting called for 2 fouls in a game where you just got called for a foul for looking at Grant Williams.
Ball control. 8 turnovers in 45 minutes. That’s something.
16 of 33 from the line. In an elimination game. 6 different Boilers missed. Carsen was 8 of 14, Haarms 1 of 5.
Being a jump-shooting team in a game where refs were calling everything until maybe three minutes left in the game. If they were attacking the basket more, Williams and Bowden foul out in regulation and Purdue cruises to a W.
Maaaaybe Carsen’s shot selection at times? He was struggling, Ryan was on fire, and he was taking a couple of quick shots. But he did manage to hit a couple of key threes, and Cline could have ended up 7 for 13, I guess? Legs tired? (Want to talk about tired legs? Admiral Schofield looked like he was wearing 20-pound ankle weights. Keep him out of the corner and there’s no OT.)
Some other stuff that doesn’t matter.
OH WAIT TERRIBLE OFFICIALS I JUST REMEMBERED. WAY TOO MANY BAD CALLS, INCLUDING CALLS THAT TOOK CLINE OUT OF THE GAME, AND THEN A QUESTIONABLE CALL THAT SENT THE GAME TO OT TO MAKE UP FOR IT. I mean obvs that call we’ll take, but I think Something Needs To Be Done. No advantage, no foul. Stop this garbage touch-foul stuff.
We don’t know yet. Either the team most likely to win the tournament (yes I know Duke is in another region, analytics are not as impressed with Williamson University) or the “weakest” team left in the field. Does it matter?
Not if Good Purdue shows up Saturday.
Choo choo, muthas.
Feature photo courtesy of @PurdueSports on Twitter