For Purdue and Coach Painter, this was a long, long, long time coming. But the Boilermakers survived a 21-5 run, a late game deficit, and overtime to overcome the Tennessee Volunteers 99-94.
For Coach Painter, the moment is bigger than that. After back-to-back losses in the Sweet Sixteen, and a 14-year career with his alma mater, the four time Big Ten Coach of the Year will be making his first appearance in the Elite Eight to take on the winner of Oregon and Virginia.
For Purdue, the game looked too similar to big games in recent years. They were in early foul trouble, with Nojel Eastern and Ryan Cline both having to miss big segments of the game with foul trouble. And when Tennessee fouled Purdue, they couldn’t convert.
They started the game going 2 of 10 from the line. But when they needed free throws most, Junior Carsen Edwards stepped to the line and made two free throws to tie the game at 82-82.
The last possession looked like disaster and another late-game collapse for Purdue when Carsen caught and shot a corner three off an inbounds pass. Edwards missed the shot, but as he crashed into his bench, the official blew his whistle and he would go to the line for three free throws. Like most the night, his first free throw just rattled out, but he resettled, tossed the ball around his back, and sank the next two.
Carsen Edwards finished the night with 29 points, and played all 45 minutes for Coach Painter.
But it was Ryan Cline’s night, as the senior set a career-high on the biggest stage, scoring 24 points on just 13 shots. He knocked down 7 of his 10 threes in the game, including some late-game heroics.
Ain’t nothing free.
The first half saw a lot of free throws, mostly for Tennessee, as Purdue had five players leave the first half with 2 fouls. But neither team could capitalize on their chances at the stripe. Tennessee was 4 of 9 from the free throw line while Purdue made just 1 of 5 attempts. Purdue’s best defender, Nojel Eastern, was sidelined with more than 7 minutes left in the first half when he got called for his second foul.
Ain’t nothing easy.
Purdue’s interior defense was downright mean in the first half. They held Tennessee to 6 of 19 from inside the arc. Matt Haarms continues to be a deterrent for driving guards with an early block at the rim and consistently altering shots at the rim. But it was redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler who had the highlight of the first half, turning an easy lay-up at the rim into a block, and then racing to the other end of the floor and rising up to throw down a two-handed slam to extend Purdue’s first half lead.
Ain’t time yet.
Purdue senior Ryan Cline was possibly staring down his last half of basketball. Purdue’s lead went from nearly twenty to non-existent in the blink of an eye. Purdue’s offense was reeling, it’s best player was missing, and the team looked shook. Enter, Ryan Cline’s moment. After three years of patiently waiting on the bench, of being the back-up, this year’s team was his. He made a statement. His career wasn’t over, and neither was Purdue’s tournament run. He scored 27 points on just 13 shots. He made 7 of his 10 three-pointers, but it’s not just how many or how efficient, it was the degree of difficulty of his shots late. He hit a bevy of catch and shoot, step-backs, and moving three-pointers. Willing his team to overtime. His behind the back dribble into a step back three with Williams hand in his face tied the game at 80-80. He would foul out for the first time in his career in the second half, but not before having the game of his life.