On Thursday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Tennessee was 2.5 seconds away from its second Elite Eight appearance in program history.
Then, Carsen Edwards happened.
The Boilermaker guard snagged a pass before lofting a 3-pointer, and while the shot didn’t go in, a Lamonté Turner foul on the play sent Edwards to the line.
He made two of three to force an overtime period that was all Purdue, ending Tennessee’s season with a 99-94 loss in the Sweet Sixteen.
Edwards led the Boilermakers with 29.
He was followed by a sharpshooting Ryan Cline, whose 27 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting bolstered Purdue.
The Vols’ loss came after a furious second-half comeback that head coach Rick Barnes was quick to praise afterward.
“We’ve proud of the effort the way we fought back in the second half,” Barnes said. “The first half didn’t do much at all on the offensive end.. I really can’t say enough about our guys fighting back.”
Tennessee started off strong, as a Jordan Bone 3-pointer put UT on the board. But a quick flurry from Purdue put the Boilermakers up 9-7, and after a tie at 13, Purdue went on its first run for a five-point advantage.
Moments later, Admiral Schofield attempted to cram a dunk through the hoop.
Instead, the ball clanked off the rim, and Trevion Williams grabbed the rebound before finding a streaking Aaron Wheeler for a dunk that put Purdue up 10 and sent the Boilermakers’ crowd into a frenzy.
Purdue led by 12 at halftime, and for a few moments in the second half, it seemed that the onslaught would continue.
Eastern got a steal and layup. Haarms got one of three blocks on the night. Finally, Cline went on a 5-0 run, and Purdue led by 18 with 16:19 to go.
But the Vols weren’t done just yet.
After whittling the deficit to 14 with 10:52 left, Tennessee mounted a 12-2 run capped by a Turner 3-pointer to tie the score at 65.
Purdue took a two-point lead off a field goal from Eastern (11 pts, 5 reb, 3 assists), and a layup from Kyle Alexander (9 pts, 8 reb, 3 blocks) tied the score at 67.
Then came a long 3-pointer from Schofield to give Tennessee the lead, and the KFC Yum! Center exploded in response.
The Vols battled down the stretch, and with 37 seconds to play, the score stood tied at 80.
A Grant Williams layup seemed to seal it for Tennessee with nine seconds left.
But Edwards’s shot and Turner’s foul shortly followed, sending the game into an overtime that doomed the Vols.
Schofield finished with 21 points, combining with Grant Williams for 42 on the night.
Moments after the loss, Schofield tugged his jersey over his face in despair, and he later described what his time at Tennessee has meant.
“I think we’ve got something special,” he said. “I think that the biggest thing that you have to appreciate is just the culture that we built at Tennessee, the winning culture. I’m just sad that I have to go out on this note.”
The senior did admit that the future looks bright, though, as he said that the Vols’ four seniors- Schofield, Alexander, Brad Woodson and Lucas Campbell- left the program as a “winning” one.
“I remember when we were losing 19 and 16 games and no one believed in us,” he continued. “I remember when we could barely get 17,000 in the arena. This year, we averaged around 20,000. God’s been amazing this year. He’s been amazing all my four years here and it’s just a blessing to be able to call myself a Tennessee Volunteer.”
Edited by Kaitlin Flippo and Robert Hughes
Featured image by Jake Nichols