Vols fall to Purdue in Maui foulfest

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team dropped a 71-67 decision to second-ranked Purdue in the Allstate Maui Invitational semifinals Tuesday evening.

No. 7/8 Tennessee (4-1) built an early nine-point lead, but the Boilermakers flipped the margin to eight the other way in the second half. The Volunteers did tie the score twice down the stretch, but the reigning Big Ten champions held on in a thriller at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht paced the Volunteers with 16 points in the setback, marking his fifth time in as many games leading the team in scoring to begin his Tennessee career.

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Purdue (5-0) scored seven of the first 11 points, all via sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer, but the Tennessee defense then began to take control. The Volunteers soon went on a 10-0 run in 5:21 to go up by nine, 20-11, with 8:51 left in the half. They held Purdue without a point for 5:50, part of a 6:54 stretch during which it missed 13 consecutive field-goal attempts.

The game was plagued by fouls. The two teams combined for 52 fouls and together shot a combined 78 free throws.

The Boilermakers went back in front, 28-27, with 2:12 left in the half, but Tennessee scored the next four points on the way to a 31-30 halftime advantage. Knecht logged 13 first-half points on 5-of-8 shooting for the Volunteers, while Loyer had 17 on a 4-of-13 field-goal clip and 7-of-8 free-throw mark for Purdue.

Tennessee limited the Boilermakers to 6-of-30 (20.0 percent) shooting in the opening 20 minutes, but they took 26 free throws, twice as many as the Volunteers, and scored 16 points at the line.

Purdue made four of its first five shots coming out of the break and, aided by seven straight points in 68 seconds, built a seven-point edge, 40-33, with 17:41 remaining. It stretched the cushion to a game-best eight, 43-35, with 14:08 to go. After Tennessee closed within three, Purdue got the margin back to eight, after which the Volunteers went on a 7-0 run, with all seven points at the line, in just 2:06 to make it a one-point game, 50-49, with exactly eight minutes to play.

Tennessee, aided by a pair of 3-pointers from junior guard Jordan Gainey, pulled even at 61 with 4:17 left. Gainey then hit another one to level the score at 64 just 70 seconds later, but Purdue scored the next six points to go up, 70-64, with 56 ticks on the clock. Knecht hit a long-range shot with 13.5 seconds left to slice the deficit in half, but the Volunteers got no closer.

Knecht shot 6-of-13, including 3-of-5 from deep, adding a team- and season-high seven rebounds in the contest. Gainey finished with 15 points, one shy of his season best.

Loyer paced all scorers with 27 points, although Tennessee limited him to a 7-of-18 mark from the field and a 3-of-10 clip beyond the arc. Senior center Zach Edey, the reigning consensus national player of the year, totaled 23 points and 10 rebounds, finishing 7-of-10 on field goals and 9-of-17 on free throws.

Both teams shot under 36 percent from the field and exactly 26.7 percent beyond the arc—Tennessee had twice as many attempts—but the Boilermakers went 29-of-48 (60.4 percent) at the line compared to the Volunteers’ 21-of-30 (70.0 percent) ledger. It marked the most free throws by an opposing team in Rick Barnes’ nine years at Tennessee with six more than the prior high.

Tennessee notched a 26-3 edge in bench points and forced 16 turnovers while committing just 10, but Purdue had a 28-18 margin in paint points behind a 17-10 edge in offensive rebounds.

The Volunteers conclude action in the Allstate Maui Invitational in the third-place contest against either top-ranked Kansas or No. 4/5 Marquette at 2:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN from SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.