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Tennessee Basketball inability to contain Zach Edey cost Vols a Final Four

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Blame the officials all you want. Tennessee Basketball got tons of huge breaks in its first ever Final Four quest. The Vols shot 11-of-26 from three and benefitted from the Purdue Boilermakers, a 41 percent team on the year, going 3-of-15 from outside. They still couldn’t win their Elite Eight matchup.

It all came down to Zach Edey.

Jonas Aidoo, an All-SEC big who was also SEC All-Defense, was not up to the challenge. Year-long concerns about his softness and tendency to disappear in big moments came to fruition in this critical NCAA Tournament game. Edey finished the game with 40 points and 16 rebounds.

Purdue outrebounded Tennessee Basketball 47-26, and they had 13 offensive boards to the Vols’ six. Edey finished with five offensive rebounds himself. Aidoo, for his part, had two rebounds and no blocks. Maybe his finesse game could keep it less of a bloodbath, though.

Well, even that disappeared, as he was 0-of-4 on those little short midrange floaters he can usually hit. Those would have been crucial to pull Edey away from the basket, but just as Aidoo shrank in the form of toughness, he shrank in terms of doing what he was best at.

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In the second half, Rick Barnes turned away from him. He went much more with Tobe Awaka, who fouled out of the game, and then he turned to J.P. Estrella in the final five minutes, who probably played the best defense of anybody on Aidoo. Estrella realized he would have a chance if he forced Edey to use his left hand.

This kept UT in it, but if Aidoo had been able to play his game, they would have built up enough of a lead to where even Eday’s heroics couldn’t save Purdue. After all, Matt Painter had no answer for Dalton Knecht, either, who finished the game with 37 points.

Now, this isn’t to solely blame Aidoo. Zakai Zeigler was off in this game, going 3-of-12 from the field and 1-of-8 from three. Santiago Vescovi couldn’t log too many minutes because he was coming back from an illness. Rick Barnes should’ve played more aggressive defensively to not let Purdue get to its halfcourt game.

However, Purdue’s awful shooting night, which also included them shooting 10 percentage points worse from the foul line at 21-of-33, or 63.6 percent, should have been a golden opportunity for Tennessee Basketball. The Vols couldn’t cash in, and it’s because Edey worked Aidoo.

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