(Photo credit: Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports)
The stacked Maui Invitational is set to give college basketball fans a pre-Thanksgiving treat as No. 7 Tennessee will face off against No. 2 Purdue in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Tennessee (4-0) earned a 73-56 win over Syracuse on Monday afternoon to advance in the winners' bracket, pulling away by scoring the game's final 12 points over the last three minutes.
Dalton Knecht led the Volunteers with 17 points despite missing nearly eight minutes of the second half with cramps. He sank 3 of 4 attempts from 3-point range. Josiah-Jordan James added season highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Jonas Aidoo contributed 14 points and 11 boards.
Tennessee prevailed despite shooting a season-low 40 percent from the floor and committing a season-high 16 turnovers.
"Really tough, hard-fought game," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "Proud of our older group at the end when we had some different situations. The older guys have been through it a lot and we have won a lot of games with our defense and not always made it look pretty."
The Boilermakers (4-0) had a tougher first-round test on Monday as they took down No. 11 Gonzaga 73-63.
Reigning national player of the year Zach Edey led the way for Boilermakers, scoring 25 points (including going 9-for-10 from the free-throw line), grabbing 14 boards and blocking three shots. It was Edey's third double-double in four games this season.
"You can't have a run if they keep scoring. We were able to get some stops, get some misses," Purdue coach Matt Painter said, referring to a key 8-0 Boilermakers run in the second half. "That was key for us."
Edey leads the Boilermakers with averages of 21.8 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. Braden Smith leads with 7.8 assists per game. Smith and Lance Jones each scored 13 points against the Bulldogs.
"Edey's development is really impressive," Barnes said. "I go back and watch him where he started and where he is, obviously got a great basketball player."
Knecht leads the Volunteers with an average of 19 points per game, as he has scored at least 17 in all four games. Aidoo and James lead down low, averaging 8.3 and eight rebounds, respectively.
Volunteers freshman Freddie Dilione V will not play in the invitational due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. In addition, Tennessee's Tobe Awaka also left the Monday game less than three minutes in and did not return.
Purdue holds a 3-2 all-time series edge over Tennessee, with their most recent matchup being a 99-94 overtime win for the Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 in 2019.
At the Maui Invitational, the Volunteers are 4-6 all-time and 2-2 in first-round contests. Purdue has appeared in the tournament four times but not since 2014. The Boilermakers' lone appearance in the Maui final was a loss to North Carolina in 1999. Tennessee has never reached the tourney final.
The winner of the Tennessee-Purdue matchup will move on to the championship on Wednesday afternoon to face the winner of No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Marquette.
--Field Level Media