Once Grant Williams got going, the Volunteers had enough scoring punch, too.
Williams scored all 22 of his points after halftime and hit the go-ahead shot with 14.5 seconds left in overtime to lift Tennessee past No. 18 Purdue 78-75 in Wednesday’s opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Volunteers (3-0) trailed by 11 points in the first half, needed to make a late 3-pointer to force overtime and fell behind by five in the extra period before rallying for the win.
“I thought we really showed the toughness we’ve been looking for from them,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said, adding: “I thought our guys just kept finding ways to fight back.”
After P.J. Thompson missed a jumper for the lead, James Daniel hit two free throws with 2.0 seconds left to push the margin to three. The Boilermakers had one more chance to tie, but Kyle Alexander intercepted Dakota Mathias’ long inbounds heave to end it.
Williams, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, missed both of his first-half shots and had one rebound while playing eight scoreless minutes with two fouls. But he made 8 of 16 shots with seven rebounds from there while the Volunteers kept running their offense through him at the top of the key and in the post.
“Just keep playing, because when you’re in foul trouble you tend to get out of your mind a little bit,” Williams said. “You’ve just got to stick to it and be yourself, because I knew guys were going to hit shots.”
Tennessee shot just 36 percent but dominated the boards (50-41), finished with 21 second-chance points and scored 20 points off turnovers.
The Volunteers also got a huge lift when Lamonte Turner buried a tying 3-pointer from near his bench with 5.1 seconds left in regulation. Purdue called a timeout, but Carsen Edwards’ 3 for the win hit the front rim as the horn sounded.
Edwards scored 21 points to lead the Boilermakers (4-1), who never got their high-scoring offense rolling.
“We have a skilled team, but we’ve got to win the possession wars,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’ve got to outrebound our opponent. We have to have fewer turnovers. When you do, now that skill is really going to help you. I thought tonight we gave Tennessee a lot of help.”
Tennessee: The Volunteers were trying for their first 3-0 start since the 2010-11 season, along with earning their fourth win against a ranked opponent under their third-year coach. They certainly found a thrilling way to do it, from Turner’s 3 to Williams’ huge effort after a scoreless first half.
Purdue: Offense sure didn’t come easily for a team that entered as one of the nation’s best offenses. The Boilermakers were averaging 102 points per game and shooting nearly 57 percent from the field. They also were shooting roughly 49 percent from 3-point range after making a school-record 19 3s against Fairfield on Saturday. But Purdue shot just 37 percent and had 18 turnovers.
“We’ve got to do a better job with decision-making,” Painter said. “We’re a good offensive team, we’ve got to allow ourselves to be a good offensive team. When we go too quick or we force things and we turn it over, now we’re not rewarding ourselves.”
Tennessee came up with two huge 3s late, the first from Turner to force overtime.
“Up until that point, I felt like I was losing the game for us,” Turner said.
Then Alexander hit one after Purdue had raced out to a 70-65 OT lead. The 6-11 junior was 1 for 6 from behind the arc in his career before that shot.
There was a bit of end-game confusion and a review with Alexander’s steal and whether he traveled just before the horn. Ultimately, it stood as the final play.
Tennessee: The Volunteers will play No. 5 Villanova on Thursday.
Purdue: The Boilermakers will play Western Kentucky in Thursday’s consolation bracket.