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.