It’s a battle of top-10 programs as Purdue takes on Tennessee in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational. Which team will land a massive victory?
TV schedule: Tuesday, November 21st, 8:00 pm ET, ESPN
Arena: Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii
In a loaded Maui Invitational field, the No. 7 team in the country is rarely an underdog in a semifinal matchup. But that’s the case for Tennessee (4-0), who had a tough time getting past Syracuse in the first round for about 35 minutes. The Vols struggled offensively outside of Dalton Knecht, who scored 15 of the team’s 30 points at the break.
The bad news for Tennessee is that Knecht missed most of the second half with an injury, along with forward Tobe Awaka. What the Vols can be happy about is the depth they have, allowing them to get past the Orange for a 73-56 victory. Both Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo had double-doubles on the night, while Santiago Vescovi filled the stat sheets with six points, five rebounds, and five assists.
The Vols now have the task of slowing down National Player of the Year, Zach Edey. Despite starting off slow from the field, the star center still managed to lead all scorers with 25 points in Purdue’s 73-63 win over Gonzaga. Guards Lance Jones and Braden Smith each chipped in with 13 points. Despite trailing by five points at the half and shooting 4/17 from deep, the Boilermakers (4-0) still got a win over a top-12 opponent.
Purdue has the chance to get another big-time win and solidify itself as a national title contender. They’ll be the favorites on Tuesday against Tennessee but how much could depend on the healthy of both Awaka and Knecht. If neither are able to go in a 24-hour turnaround, the chances of them getting the upset becomes slim to none.
Prediction: Purdue 76, Tennessee 65