The Purdue Boilermakers were on the ropes. The Tennessee Volunteers were poised to finish off a furious second-half comeback. All that was left was 2.7 seconds. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything, apparently.
If you tuned into the Thursday night Sweet 16 matchup from Louisville, Kentucky, you understand how crazy the final few minutes of regulation were. If you didn’t, you missed one of the best games of the entire NCAA Tournament. Purdue led by as many as 18 points, choked it away, yet managed to escape with a 99-94 victory in overtime to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2000.
How the Boilermakers got there was controversial to some, but seemed plain as day to anyone without an emotional attachment to either team.
With 2.7 seconds remaining and trailing by two points, Purdue struggled to inbound the ball, but eventually found their leader, senior point guard Carsen Edwards, in the corner. He hoisted up a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. However, Lamonte Turner was whistled for a foul, which sparked controversy all over the place.
The hot takes were everywhere.
Edwards was fouled with 1.7 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw (because of course he did) and buried the last two to force overtime, which Purdue eventually took control of and won.
Look, it took forever and a day for the Boilermakers to get the ball in. A five-second call could have been made and none of this would have happened. Yet, there was no whistle on that play and now everyone has been up in arms for days about something completely out of their control in the final seconds of the South Regional semifinal.
For those who feel Carsen Edwards, who finished with a game-high 29 points, kicked his leg out and initiated the contact, that’s not why the foul was called. Vols guard Lamonte Turner hit him in the right hip after he released the ball.
In almost every scenario in a college basketball game, this is a foul. It just sucks it swung the momentum in a critical game at a critical moment, but thus is life. The officials made to make a quick judgement call and the body contact was enough to warrant the foul.
At the time, that’s how Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes felt, too. He said after the game that it was a foul. However, after a few days, he isn’t so sure. The veteran coach went on the Vols Calls radio show to admit a possible change of heart.
“You want to get a hand up. Obviously you don’t want to put yourself in a position to where you look at that from a different angle, you could say he kicked his leg out, because Lamonte had already kind of slid by him, had his back to him. But the angle where the ref was standing was the same angle I was looking at. Where I was, I couldn’t tell how far Lamont had gone by him, but I did see there was contact…
“… You look at it from a different angle, it looks like his leg goes out because the ball was four feet out of his hands. He didn’t affect the shot. You want to contest it…
“…And I think Lamonte is being competitive, jumped up. Honestly, I’ve had people tell me it wasn’t a foul either. But in a split second decision like that, it’s hard.”
— Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, via 247Sports
Whether it was a foul or not is still up in the air to many, but that didn’t cost Tennessee the game. Overtime did.
Maybe the Volunteers used all of their energy to come back. Perhaps the foul call was too much to overcome. No matter what it was, head coach Barnes could have helped make the extra period much better than what it was.
First and foremost, WHY WAS GRANT WILLIAMS, THE FREAKING SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR, ON THE BENCH TO START OVERTIME IN AN ELIMINATION GAME?
Foul trouble is one thing, but this is pure stupidity. This is your leader, your best player, and he’s on the bench to start overtime? Who cares if he had four fouls? That made absolutely no sense.
March Madness is a tough pill to swallow sometimes. Tennessee basketball had its best team in a decade with All-American Grant Williams, who scored 21 points, Admiral Schofield (21 points), Lamonte Turner (15 points), Jordan Bone (10 points), Kyle Alexander (9 points), and Jordan Bowden (16 points).
It was a great ride. Unfortunately, it came to an end and did so with some controversy.
There’s just no changing the past, though. Tennessee fouled. Purdue, which also got 27 points from senior Ryan Cline, capitalized and won in overtime to advance to play Virginia. It’s that simple.