April 15, 2024

Zach Edey, Purdue Beat Dalton Knecht, Tennessee to Reach Final Four, Excite CBB Fans | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 31: Zach Edey #15 of the Purdue Boilermakers high fives Braden Smith #3 against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Little Caesars Arena on March 31, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Zach Edey, at least for now, has his defining moment.

Purdue’s star big man delivered in the biggest moment for his team and led the Boilermakers to a 72-66 victory over second-seeded Tennessee in Sunday’s Elite Eight battle in the 2024 NCAA men’s tournament.

The Boilermakers, who are the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1980 and continued their run toward a potential national title the year after a stunning first-round loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.

As for the Volunteers, they fell just one win short of their first Final Four in program history despite Dalton Knecht posting 37 points and outscoring the rest of his team combined.

Yet he wasn’t even the game’s biggest star, as Edey tallied 40 points and 16 boards on 13-of-21 shooting from the field. Fittingly, he drew plenty of reaction on social media:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

PURDUE TAKES DOWN TENNESSEE TO ADVANCE TO THE FINAL FOUR.<br><br>Zach Edey dropped 40 PTS (career-high) &amp; 16 REB 😱 <a href=”https://t.co/tpw9as7Von”>pic.twitter.com/tpw9as7Von</a>

Purdue ended up winning, but Tennessee set the tone in the early going. The SEC representative extended its lead to double digits in the first half as Knecht drained three-pointers and Zakai Zeigler facilitated.

However, the Boilermakers broke out a 13-0 run by consistently pounding the ball down low to Edey. The Volunteers had no answer, and the Big Ten team took a 36-34 lead into intermission despite its early struggles from the outside.

The Knecht and Edey show continued into the second half with both stars going back and forth. The former was unstoppable from deep, while the latter overpowered his way through defenders on the block as they traded impressive plays.

Tennessee’s only chance to stop the big man was by fouling him, and the whistles started to add up with Tobe Awaka fouling out and Purdue reaching the bonus early in the second half.

To the Volunteers’ credit, they had plenty of answers thanks to Knecht’s offense and strong perimeter defense that prevented the Boilermakers from pulling away and generating much outside of Edey.

It eventually turned into a show with Knecht dropping in shots from seemingly everywhere and Edey spinning his way through the lane. Perhaps the best solution would have been to clear the floor and let them play one-on-one, but they surely couldn’t have stopped each other either.

All it would take is someone else to contribute in a critical moment to swing the game, and that is exactly what happened when Lance Jones drained a monster three in the last three minutes for Purdue to extend its advantage to six.

From there, Edey swatted Knecht in the last minute to clinch the win and put the exclamation point on an incredible performance.

UConn may be the tournament favorite still, but the unstoppable version of Edey that was on display Sunday could lead Purdue to a title. Next up is a Final Four showdown against the winner of the game between Duke and North Carolina State.