LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Down two to Tennessee with 2.7 seconds left, Purdue narrowly avoided a five-second call before Carsen Edwards took a pass in the corner and heaved up a 3-point attempt that bounced off the rim.
But a whistle gave Edwards and the Boilermakers a reprieve.
Lamonte’ Turner bumped into Edwards after he released the shot and the Big Ten’s leading scorer went to the line for three free throws with 1.7 seconds left. Edwards missed the first, steadied himself and knocked down the next two to force overtime. Given a second chance to put away the Volunteers, the Boilermakers got it done.
Edwards finished with 29 points as Purdue advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000, beating Tennessee 99-94 on Thursday night after blowing an 18-point lead.
“When I got to the free throw line, I was struggling all game,” said Edwards, an 85.2 percent shooter who went 8-of-14 at the line in the game. “Being able to hit the last two was just a blessing. Just an opportunity, stepped up to get us some more time to play.”
Turner said Edwards had been kicking out his leg all night, something he had been pointing out to the referee.
“I try to contest the shot, and his leg made contact with me and they called a foul,” Turner said. “So I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.”
The third-seeded Boilermakers (26-9) will play top-seeded Virginia on Saturday in the South Regional final for their first trip to the Final Four since 1980.
Purdue is in a regional final for the fifth time, but first with coach Matt Painter, who had gotten the team to the round of 16 four times previously.
“I’m happy for myself, happy for my guys and happy for Coach Paint,” said Ryan Cline, who had a career-high 27 points, shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range before fouling out in OT.
Grant Williams’ dunk with 8.8 seconds left made it 82-80 and had second-seeded Tennessee (31-6) on the verge of its second Elite Eight berth all time. Williams also blocked Edwards’ layup attempt in the closing seconds out of bounds. Officials reviewed the play to see if it went off Edwards’ ankle, but only adjusted the clock, giving Purdue one more chance.
“I didn’t know if it went off me or his leg or anything,” Williams said. “They just said they looked at the clock and the time on the clock. I don’t know if they looked for who it went off on so couldn’t tell you.”
It was Tennessee’s second straight overtime game. The Vols blew a 25-point lead to Iowa in the second round, but recovered to win it in OT. The last team to play consecutive overtime games in the NCAA Tournament was Florida in 2011. The Gators beat BYU and lost to Butler.
“We had the lead with one-point-something seconds left,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Tough foul.”
Purdue scored nine of the first 11 points in OT.
“I think we had that relief,” Painter said. “Our guys did such a good job of competing in overtime. You know how it goes. Like the ball bounced our way a couple times. I thought in regulation there were a couple bounces we didn’t get. But it did in overtime.”
Williams and Admiral Schofield scored 21 apiece for Tennessee. Jordan Bowden had 16, Turner 15 and Jordan Bone 15.
This was the third straight Sweet 16 berth for the Boilermakers, and their experience at this point showed compared to a Tennessee team with nobody around from the Vols’ last trip to a regional semifinal in 2014. The Boilermakers led 40-28 at halftime, handing Tennessee only its fourth double-digit deficit this season.
The Boilermakers led 51-33 with 16:19 left before the Vols turned in a 16-2 run to tie it up at 65 with 6:56 left.
Purdue: The Boilermakers also advanced to the Elite Eight in 1969, 1980, and 1994. They improved to 5-7 all time in regional semifinals and also 3-5 against the SEC in the NCAAs.
Tennessee: It’s a disappointing end to an otherwise excellent season. The Vols won 19 straight games and sat atop The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll for four straight weeks. The Vols lose at least a pair of starters from this squad with Schofield and Alexander both seniors.
Edwards is the all-time leading scorer in Purdue history in the NCAA Tournament. He came in with 153 points, and he had 168 by halftime of his ninth career game to pass JaJuan Johnson, Brian Cardinal and Joe Barry Carroll (161).
Company with Curry
Better yet, Edwards has put himself in some select company. With four made 3-pointers, Edwards has made at least four threes in four straight tournament games, and only Steph Curry has more with five consecutive such games for Davidson in 2007-08. Edwards also is the first player since Curry with at least four straight 25-point games in the tournament.
“Oh, man, that’s pretty dope,” Edwards said. “I didn’t know that.”
Purdue also busted the last perfect bracket, handing a loss to a 40-year-old neuropsychologist who had picked the first 48 games correctly on NCAA.com and changed his Twitter name to Gregg “Perfect Bracket” Nigl. The Boilermakers’ win not only ended that run but also dropped Nigl’s bracket to sixth place in the NCAA’s bracket challenge.
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