The Sweet 16 hasn’t been kind to Purdue during Matt Painter’s 14 seasons as coach.
The Boilermakers have reached the round four times and lost on each occasion, including each of the past two seasons.
Third-seeded Purdue (25-9) takes a swing at getting over the hump when it faces second-seeded Tennessee(31-5) in the South Region contest at Louisville, Ky.
The Boilermakers were dispatched by Texas Tech last season and blown out by Kansas two years ago. This time around, there is no doubt Purdue is ready to ride the shooting hand of junior guard Carsen Edwards.
Edwards established career bests of 42 points and nine 3-pointers as Purdue trounced defending national champion Villanova 87-61 in a second-round victory on Saturday.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t say that I knew I had a career night until the game was over,” Edwards said during the postgame press conference. “I’m just focused on just trying to get the win, especially in games like this where you value every possession. I was just out there fighting with my brothers, and we were able to get the win, and I was able to have some shots fall for me.”
Edwards is averaging 34 points in the tournament after scoring 26 in the first-round win over Old Dominion.
But he connected on just 7 of 23 shots in that contest to continue a late-season shooting slump. The effort dropped him to 24 of 89 during a four-game stretch, prior to Saturday’s spree.
Edwards was less than thrilled with the topic — “If we’re being really honest, I’m very tired of it,” he said — while Painter said it comes with the territory with Edwards being a “volume shooter.”
“I don’t look at him in terms of his percentages, I look at him more of just the decisions,” Painter said. “He shoots a low percentage normally when he doesn’t make good decisions. When he makes good decisions, it usually takes care of itself.”
Edwards, who is averaging 23.6 points and shooting 38.9 percent from the field, is no stranger to the Volunteers.
He scored 21 points against Tennessee in a game in the Bahamas early last season, but the Volunteers prevailed 78-75 in overtime.
Vols’ blown lead thing of the past
Tennessee power forward Grant Williams scored 22 points in that contest, and he is a prime reason why Tennessee is still alive in this year’s tournament.
The Volunteers blew a 25-point lead against Iowa and were forced to go into overtime on Sunday. Williams scored six of his 19 points in the extra session to help Tennessee win 83-77 and avoid what would have been a dreadful collapse.
“We should have just kept going how we were going and kept the pace up, kept trying to being aggressive and dominant,” Williams, a junior who averages team highs of 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds, said afterward.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes revisited the situation in his Monday press conference and insisted that it isn’t alarming to let a 25-point lead get away.
“I know you people think it’s crazy, but you know, if we can build a 25-point lead in the half, they can too,” Barnes said. “They wouldn’t be where they were — that was a good team, they can shoot the ball. When you get a lead, you can’t be sloppy with the ball, you can’t just hand somebody the ball, because momentum can change with a 3-point shot.”
The Volunteers will be trying to prevent 3-pointers on Thursday as Edwards (120 makes this season) and senior guard Ryan Cline (102) hoist a lot of long-range shots.
Barnes said he will open the game with Lamonte Turner shadowing Edwards, while using fellow junior guards Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden and sophomore swingman Yves Pons on Edwards at other times during the contest.
“You hope that the officiating is good,” Barnes said, “because you’ve seen how Lamonte is going to get after it, and Carsen is going to get after it.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)