#655 Tennessee +3 vs Purdue
The first of two semifinals today in the Maui Invitational where all four favorites won yesterday. The Vols and Boilermakers both ended up covering the spread on Monday, but it wasn’t easy in either instance. Tennessee (-12.5) trailed Syracuse much of the first half before a 9-1 run put them up 30-25 at the break. ‘Cuse missed its final six shots of the first half. In the second half, the Vols shot 50-percent (13-of-26) from the floor to pull away and win 73-56. Tennessee enjoyed a massive edge at the free throw line (20-of-27 vs 8-of-17) and on the boards (48-33). The country’s No. 1 team in defensive efficiency (per KenPom) held ‘Cuse to 35-percent shooting for the game. Leading scorer Dalton Knecht (17 points) missed eight minutes in the second half with cramping but did return. All but two of Knecht’s points came in the first half.
Purdue trailed Gonzaga by as many as nine in the first half, but rallied for a 73-63 win and cover as five-point chalk. Zach Edey scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. The Boilermakers dominated points in the paint (44-30) thanks to Edey, who also had 14 rebounds and three blocks. Purdue was 13-of-16 from the free throw line (Edey 9-of-10) while Gonzaga was just 5-of-8. The ‘Zags were held to 37.7-percent shooting and out-scored 43-28 after halftime. Purdue took the lead for good with 14:43 left and Gonzaga missed its final 13 three-point attempts!
Looking at today’s matchup, these are two veteran teams. Tennessee has three fifth-year players while Purdue returned all five starters from a team that went 29-6 and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Boilermakers are the only team in KenPom’s top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Purdue will struggle to match up with Knecht, but he may still be struggling with some nagging injuries and Tennessee’s task of slowing down Edey is more of a challenge. The Boilermakers have won 29-straight non-conference games. The Vols are just 2-9 straight-up and 3-7-1 against the spread as an underdog. Lay the points with Purdue.