Sports

An Ode to Ryan Cline’s Catapult-Like Jumper That Saved Purdue’s Bacon

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28:  Ryan Cline #14 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts after a three pointer against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Man on fire.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Purdue Boilermakers tried their best to hand Tennessee a win on Thursday night, but Ryan Cline wouldn’t let them. The senior guard scored 27 points during Purdue’s 99-94 overtime victory, and his incendiary 3-point shooting kept the Volunteers at bay. Tennessee overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half to take a late lead, but a barrage of Cline jumpers made the comeback moot.

In an NCAA Tournament lacking for signature moments, “the Ryan Cline game” stands out as a classic. When Tennessee finally took its second-half lead with 5:26 remaining, Cline converted four 3-pointers in a row. He single-handedly reversed the inertia of this perpetual motion machine of a contest, and he did so with a shooting form straight out of your local retirement league.

In this age of YouTube tutorials and advanced shot analysis, it’s refreshing to see someone with a wonky yet effective jumper. Cline looks like he’s scratching the back of his head with the ball. He looks like a Boston Dynamics robot casting a fishing line. He looks like he’s skipping a stone across a lake, overhand. But none of that matters. Cline’s career 3-point average is 40.2 percent, and he clearly knows what he’s doing.

Cline’s biggest weakness is his inability to create a shot off the dribble, though that didn’t stop him from nailing Purdue’s biggest triple of the night. Down 3 and in desperate need of a make, Cline gingerly motored around for a few seconds before unleashing a fadeaway swish. It was his seventh 3-pointer of the game.

Cline fouled out in overtime, but his teammates managed to pull off the come-from-ahead win without him. The Boilermakers will appear in the Elite Eight for the first time in 19 years, and they’re doing so thanks to a jumper that’s frozen in time.