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Zach Edey performs excellently, leads Purdue to Final Four by beating Tennessee

DETROIT — Purdue player Zach Edey achieved a personal best of 40 points and 16 rebounds as well as a crucial block on Sunday to help Purdue reach the Final Four for the first time since 1980 with a 72-66

DETROIT — Purdue player Zach Edey achieved a personal best of 40 points and 16 rebounds as well as a crucial block on Sunday to help Purdue reach the Final Four for the first time since 1980 with a 72-66 win over Tennessee.

The 7-foot-4 center fought hard for a victory in an intense game between two top players, narrowly outperforming Tennessee’s star player, Dalton Knecht, who scored 37 points.

In a fitting end to the game, Edey blocked Knecht’s layup as he attempted to score with only 33 seconds remaining, preventing a potential comeback from Tennessee.

Purdue, the top seed with a record of 33-4, overcame the disappointment of last year's early exit as a No. 1 seed to secure a place in the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. The Boilermakers will face either Duke or N.C. State in the national semifinals on Saturday.

Tennessee, a No. 2 seed with a 27-9 record, was aiming for its first Final Four appearance, but Vols coach Rick Barnes was unable to make his second visit there in his 38-year career.

This was a fiercely competitive game witnessed by a deafening crowd largely made up of Purdue fans who had traveled from Indiana.

The fans were rewarded with a historic victory, and Fletcher Loyer even threw the game ball into the stands when the final buzzer sounded.

With the school’s 87-year-old former coach, Gene Keady, watching from the stands, the game at times had a nostalgic feel.

Purdue frequently passed the ball to Edey in the post, and despite UT's aggressive defense, including blocking two of his shots, Edey persevered and managed to score. He made 13 of 21 field goal attempts and made numerous trips to the free-throw line, where he was successful 14 times out of 22.

In contrast to Purdue’s last appearance at this stage of the tournament, where the 3-point line did not exist, the Boilermakers had little success from long range, making only 3 of 15 attempts.

The game was extremely close, with eight lead changes and six ties. Of particular note, with 5 minutes remaining, both Knecht and Edey had each scored 31 points from 12 field goals, highlighting their closely matched performance.

However, the outcome was ultimately determined by three 3-point attempts. Knecht missed two open shots, first when his team was trailing by three with 3:09 left on the clock, and then again when down by six in the following possession.

In the meantime, Lance Jones made a 3-pointer from the corner, increasing Purdue’s lead to 66-60 and providing them with some breathing room.

The decisive moment came as Tennessee attempted to close the gap at 69-64. Knecht drove into the lane and attempted a shot, but Edey, who had been on the court for 39 minutes, moved over and cleanly blocked the shot.

Knecht was successful with 14 of 31 field goal attempts. Despite making his first four 3-pointers, he only managed to make 2 of his next 12 attempts.

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