Purdue vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: No. 2 Boilermakers survive scare, advance to Maui Invitational final

No. 2 Purdue and No. 7 Tennessee played a football game on the basketball court at the Stan Sheriff Center in Hawaii on Tuesday as the Boilermakers escaped with a 71-67 victory in the Maui Invitational semifinals behind 27 points from Fletcher Loyer. 

The top-10 clash featured a total of 52 fouls and 78 free throws as bodies hit the ground on virtually every play. The Boilermakers will face No. 4 Marquette in the tournament's championship game Wednesday after the Golden Eagles upset No. 1 Kansas in the other semifinal.

Loyer helped carry the Boilermakers as reigning national player of the year Zach Edey dealt with foul trouble that kept him benched for spurts of both halves. Still, Edey made a massive impact with his 7-foot-4 frame, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help Purdue to a 17-10 edge in offensive rebounds.

That stat was particularly impactful considering how many misses were up for grabs on the glass. Neither team shot better than 35.2% from the floor. Tennessee rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half behind the outside shooting of Jordan Gainey, who scored all 15 of his points after the break. Ultimately, the Vols couldn't overcome a 30% team shooting percentage in the second half.  

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Fletcher Loyer's big game

Loyer's 27 points matched his career-high and constituted a breakout performance for the sophomore guard after a slow start to his 2023-24 season. In Monday's quarterfinal win over Gonzaga, he finished 0 for 6 from the field with three turnovers and just one assist in 24 minutes. Thus, he entered Tuesday's game shooting just 33.3% from the floor for the season after he also struggled down the stretch last year.

But against the Volunteers, Loyer looked like the potential secondary star the Boilermakers so desperately need to compliment Edey. He scored Purdue's first seven points and scored seven more over the final 6:41. In between he hit free throws, timely 3-pointers and corralled six rebounds while logging 36 minutes. His "and-one" jumper at the at the 5:05 mark was particularly clutch as it came in response to a rare made 3-pointer from Tennessee. The former four-star prospect showed enticing glimpses of his offensive potential last season, and those glimpses reappeared again in a huge moment against the Volunteers.

November 22, 2023, 3:54 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 10:54 pm EST
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Tennessee's offensive pattern

Tennessee shot just 33.3% from the floor, which is a familiar recipe for defeat with the Volunteers. It's the exact shooting percentage they posted in a Sweet 16 loss to FAU in last year's NCAA Tournament. While it's too early to declare this version of the Vols to be unimproved offensively, they need their veteran guards to get in a rhythm. Fifth-year player Santiago Vescovi entered shooting just 36.4% from the floor and 21.4% from 3-point range and finished 0 for 3 from the floor against Purdue.

Junior guard Zakai Zeigler entered shooting 26.3% from the floor and 27.3% from 3-point range and made only 2 of 11 shots against the Boilermakers. Those two are Tennessee's leading returning scorers but are simultaneously off to rough starts. The emergence of transfers Dalton Knecht and Jordan Gainey have helped Tennessee cope so far, but if this team is going to be better offensively than past iterations, it needs more from Vescovi and Zeigler.

November 22, 2023, 4:06 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 11:06 pm EST
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Surviving without Zach Edey

Edey averaged 32.4 minutes in Big Ten games last season but logged just 26 on Wednesday as he got caught up in the storm of fouls. However, the Boilermakers survived reasonably well without him. The score was 26-26 when he checked out at the 4:17 mark of the first half after picking up his second foul. Purdue trailed just 31-30 at halftime after playing the last stretch of the half without its star.

Purdue led 50-46 when he checked out with nine minutes remaining after picking up his fourth. Tennessee mounted a rally over the next 5:16 with Edey on the bench, but the Boilermakers withstood the storm and still led 62-61 when he checked back in with 3:44 remaining. 

Two of Edey's top traits are his excellent conditioning and his savvy foul-avoidance, which are both rare for a player of his size. He never fouled out last season and only reached four fouls on two occasions. But on a rare night of foul trouble for Edey, the Boilermakers held up impressively well while navigating key stretches without their star.

November 22, 2023, 3:47 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 10:47 pm EST
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Purdue pulls it off

Final: Purdue 71, Tennessee 67

In a game that featured 52 total fouls, Purdue was the last team standing as the Boilermakers used huge performances from Foster Loyer (27 points) and Zach Edey (23 points and 10 rebounds) to survive a Maui Invitational semifinal slugfest. Tennessee's top two centers each fouled out, leaving the Volunteers to defend Edey with a small lineup in the final two minutes as the Vols went cold from the floor. The Boilermakers will nurse their wounds and prepare for the winner of Kansas vs. Marquette in tomorrow's title game.

November 22, 2023, 3:31 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 10:31 pm EST
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Jordan Gainey gets going

With Dalton Knecht quiet in the second half, Tennessee has turned to its other transfer guard, Jordan Gainey, who has scored 12 here after halftime. A couple of 3s from the former USC Upstate star have the score tied at 61-61 as the under-four timeout hits with 3:44 remaining. Tobe Awaka just fouled out for Tennessee and Jonas Aidoo has four. Purdue is also dealing with foul trouble in the frontcourt as we're up to 46 fouls for the game.

November 22, 2023, 3:12 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 10:12 pm EST
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Getting ridiculous out there

Tennessee is shooting 31.1% from the floor and Purdue is shooting 32.7%. There have been a combined 43 points scored at the free-throw line. This is basically like football, but the referees are still officiating like it's basketball. Five players have four fouls. Down the stretch we go in a tight game.

November 22, 2023, 3:08 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 10:08 pm EST
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Zach Edey's fourth

In a game that has turned into a foul-fest, Zach Edey picked up his fourth at the 9:00 mark with Purdue leading 50-46. We are up to 39 combined fouls in this game and Purdue has committed 11 fouls already in the second, meaning the Vols are shooting two from here on out. If you're looking for the start of Marquette-Kansas, come back in an hour when the ref show has concluded.

November 22, 2023, 2:57 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:57 pm EST
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Tennessee is cold as fouls mount

The version of Tennessee we're seeing the second half is the version that we've become accustomed to in some of these big-time, neutral-site games. The Volunteers simply cannot hit shots. But in some ways, the script of the first half has simply flipped. Tennessee is already in the bonus as fouls mount on Purdue, so the Vols may have a chance to survive at the charity stripe. With Purdue leading 45-42 at the 11:15 mark, there have been a total of 36 fouls called in the game.

November 22, 2023, 2:46 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:46 pm EST
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Loyer and Edey shining, but no balance

Zach Edey and Foster Loyer have 35 of Purdue's 40 points. While it's working for the Boilermakers tonight, there is some long-term concern over a lack of balance with this team. It was Edey or nothing at times last season, and when other plays went MIA against Fairleigh Dickinson in the NCAA Tournament, disaster ensued. There is a noticeable lack of prototypical "wing" playmaking on this Purdue team. It's not necessarily a fatal flaw. But if you're going to nitpick on an elite team, that's something which stands out.

November 22, 2023, 2:33 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:33 pm EST
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Purdue surges out of the gate

Purdue began the second half on a 7-0 run as Zach Edey and Foster Loyer continued to run things for the Boilermakers. Loyer hit a 3 and Edey made a couple of baskets from the field, including an and-1 opportunity. Vols had gone cold to start the half until Tobe Awaka hit a jump hook over Zach Edey. The Boilermakers are still at just 27% shooting for the game but have a 5-point lead nonetheless.

November 22, 2023, 2:31 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:31 pm EST
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Foul trouble entering the second half

Foul trouble has already been a factor and will continue to be a factor entering this second half.

With two fouls for Tennessee: Jonas Aidoo, J.P. Estrella. With three: Tobe Awaka

With two fouls for Purdue: Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Caleb Furst, Zach Edey

November 22, 2023, 2:23 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:23 pm EST
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Weird half between Purdue and Tennessee

Half: Tennessee 31, Purdue 30

Purdue attempted a whopping 26 free throws in the first half as it used a commanding 12-4 edge in offensive rebounds to generate multiple chances, paint touches and free-throw opportunities. That element allowed the Boilermakers to make up for shooting just 20% from the floor. Fletcher Loyer led Purdue with 17 points. Though he was just 4 of 13 from the field, he went 5 of 6 at the free-throw line. Dalton Knecht led Tennessee with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Zach Edey missed the final 4:17 of the half after picking up his second foul but still scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He missed his first six free throws but made the next six. Physical half between two top-10 teams.

November 22, 2023, 2:05 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 9:05 pm EST
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Bruising battle

Tennessee is shooting 43.5% from the floor vs. just 24% for Purdue, but the Volunteers lead just 27-26 as Purdue is dominating on the glass at the under-four timeout. The Boilermakers would be leading if they'd made more than 12 of 20 free throws. Tobe Awaka, Jonas Aidoo each have two fouls, and J.P. Estrella has three for Tennessee. Those are the three bigs who've seen the floor. Zach Edey just picked up his second for Purdue and went to the bench. Boilermakers may end up shooting 25+ free throws in this half.

November 22, 2023, 1:50 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:50 pm EST
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Rick Barnes T'd up

There's something you don't see every day. Rick barnes just reveived a technical foul after protesting a foul call on the Vols underneath the basket as Purdue collected its 11th offensive rebound of the first half. The Vols are getting manhandled on the glass, which is allowing a Boilermakers' team shooting 21% to remain in the game.

November 22, 2023, 1:45 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:45 pm EST
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Jamai Mashack making an impact

Tennessee wing Jamai Mashack isn't normally an offensive weapon — he's known better for bringing defense and energy — but is making an impact offensively in this one with six first half points. He's proving effective in the short/mid-range area. Without challenging the rim and Zach Edey directly, he's been able to find some good looks inside the arc. Purdue is showing more life but is still trying to overcome an abysmal shooting start.

November 22, 2023, 1:39 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:39 pm EST
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Rough offensive start for Purdue

Purdue is struggling offensively and not generating much for Zach Edey within the flow of the offense. Particularly jarring is Zach Edey's 0 for 6 start from the free-throw line. He's a career 71.1% free-throw shooter but can't find the stroke early in this one. As a team, Purdue is shooting just 23.5% from the floor an 2 for 10 from the free-throw line. Vols lead 19-11 with 8:51 left in the half.

November 22, 2023, 1:33 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:33 pm EST
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Dalton Knecht gets going, Awaka returns

Dalton Knecht is at seven points for the game. The Northern Colorado transfer has been a difference-maker for the Volunteers early this season. He's 2 for 2 from beyond the arc already and had a nice assist to Jamai Mashack in the first couple of minutes. Of note for the Vols: reserve big man Tobe Awaka got some early run after playing just one minute in Monday's win over Syracuse while dealing with an ankle injury.

November 22, 2023, 1:25 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:25 pm EST
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Knecht adds different dynamic to Vols

Remember this Tennessee team a year ago that dominated on defense but went, frequently, long stretches during games where it could not score? 

Well, this Vols team thus far has a different look to it.

The defense remains elite -- it ranks No. 1 in adjusted efficiency at KenPom -- but the offense added a transfer in Dalton Knecht who has given this team a versatile shot-maker to lubricate what has the last few years been a creaky, outdated machine.

Not expecting Tennessee to be an elite offense with Knecht -- even as good as he's been -- but if its offense can be even average or slightly above it? With perhaps the best defensive unit in the country? Then yeah, we maybe need to readjust some expectations for how far this team can go. 

November 22, 2023, 1:22 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:22 pm EST
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Fletcher Loyer starts hot

Purdue sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer started with Purdue's first seven points. He hasn't been great early this season, so it's an encouraging sign for the Boilermakers to see him finding a rhythm offensively against a great defensive team. His first make was a 3 from the left wing, followed by a pair of free throws and a runner. Vols lead 10-9 at the first media timeout. The teams combined to start 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.

November 22, 2023, 1:13 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:13 pm EST
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Here we go

Starters are as follows:

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi, Dalton Knecht, Jamai Mashack, Jonas Aidoo

Purdue: Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Lance Jones, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Zach Edey.

November 22, 2023, 1:05 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 8:05 pm EST
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Handling Zach Edey

Reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey is off to a predictably strong start, averaging 21.8 points, 11 rebounds 3.5 blocks through four games. The 7-foot-4 behemoth is difficult for any opponent to defend, but the Vols should theoretically be well-equipped to attempt the challenge because of their front court, which is headlined by 6-foot-11 center Jonas Aidoo. However, if Aidoo gets in foul trouble, the status of Tobe Awake will loom large. He's a physical backup center who left Monday's win over Syracuse with a right ankle injury.

November 22, 2023, 12:50 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 7:50 pm EST
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How Tennessee got here

The Volunteers won their quarterfinal matchup with Syracuse 73-56 behind a strong second half effort. Jonas Aidoo, Josiah-Jordan James and Dalton Knecht each reached double figures for Tennessee, which overcame 16 turnovers while improving to 4-0. Coach Rick Barnes' club also has a road win over Wisconsin and home victories against Tennessee Tech and Wofford. Behind the outside shooting of transfers Knecht (Northern Colorado) and Justin Gainey (USC Upstate), there is optimism that this team will be one of the best offensive groups Barnes has fielded in his nine seasons.

November 22, 2023, 12:30 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 7:30 pm EST
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How Purdue got here

Purdue won its quarterfinal matchup against Gonzaga on Monday behind a double-double from Zach Edey, who finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Edey made 9 of 10 free throws as the Boilermakers overcame a 35-30 halftime deficit to take out the Zags. Lance Jones and Braden Smith also chipped in with 13 apiece. Smith was particularly impressive with six assists and five steals. The Boilermakers need Smith and fellow sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer to take steps forward this season, and the early returns from Smith are encouraging.

November 22, 2023, 12:00 AM
Nov. 21, 2023, 7:00 pm EST
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Maui Invitational at 40

The Maui Invitational holds a distinct reputation in American sports. In recent decades, even as football has grown ever more popular — late November becoming as synonymous with family time and turkey as it is with pigskin — college basketball's ties to the week of Thanksgiving have endured. Maui's tournament (held the Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday before Thanksgiving) is the reason why college hoops has a place in the sports discourse this week at a time when the NFL's playoff race starts to take shape and college football's regular season is wrapping up with some of its biggest rivalry games. 

Here's a chronological look at 20 of Maui's most memorable games over its first four decades. 

Maui Invitational at 40: The 20 greatest games in the history of college basketball's best November event
Matt Norlander
Maui Invitational at 40: The 20 greatest games in the history of college basketball's best November event