What Matt Painter Said After Purdue's 72-66 Win Over Tennessee in the Elite Eight

Purdue defeated Tennessee 72-66 in the Elite Eight round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers are now heading to the Final Four for the first time since 1980. Here's everything coach Matt Painter said following the win over the Volunteers.
Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter holds up a piece of the net Sunday, March 31, 2024,
Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter holds up a piece of the net Sunday, March 31, 2024, / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Purdue punched its ticket to the Final Four on Sunday, taking down Tennessee 72-66. It marks the first time the Boilermakers have reached the sport's pinnacle event since 1980. Coach Matt Painter also sheds the "best coach to never reach a Final Four" moniker.

The Boilers were led by Zach Edey, who scored 40 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the victory. Flether Loyer added 14 and Braden Smith gave Purdue nine points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

Purdue will now play North Carolina State on Saturday for a chance to compete for a national title. Here's everything Painter had to say following the win over Tennessee.

Matt Painter's opening statement ...

Congratulations obviously to Tennessee for a fabulous season. Very difficult to go against. Obviously we played them earlier in the season, great coach, great defense, very athletic.

Dalton Knecht is very good, and I think he showed that today and made it very, very difficult on us.

Just want to give credit to our players and our staff for just sticking with it and competing and playing and putting ourselves in a good position.

Obviously our fans were fabulous in being able to come to Detroit after being in Indianapolis and really support us on Easter. To be able to get to a Final Four is a dream come true for me as a coach and for these guys as players. Just grateful to be in this position.

On what Painter learned from coach Gene Keady that he taught his team ...

 Just understanding that you're a former player for 40 to 50 to 60 years and just keep that in perspective. It's really hard, after you've had success as a player, to not think that way when your career is over. A lot of times your career is over, if you're a professional, around 32, 33, 34 years old. There's a few exceptions to that rule.

But just keep that in place. I always say you've got to have two dreams. You've got to have one through basketball, and you've got to have one through education because you have this opportunity.

He really tried to talk to us about not just having a great basketball career, but taking an opportunity like that and having a great life. That's something I've always tried to pass on. Have fun with what you're doing. If you can do that and you enjoy what you do, then you're beating the system.

On what Painter has learned during his journey with Purdue since last year ...

Just be strong in your convictions in terms of how you think the game should be played. We base what we do offensively off our individual players and just try to play to those strengths and just be able to play off of those strengths.

And just being able to stay with it. Obviously we lost last year, and we just had to be better at what we do and do a better job at taking care of the basketball. I stress that all the time. We work on it. But every coach stresses that. Every coach talks about rebounding the ball and taking care of the basketball. You want to win that possession battle.

Yeah, stay in the process but also looking at it and seeing where we could make improvements, seeing where we could be better.

We had some guys that didn't shoot the ball as well the year before where I recruited, I had watched, I had seen in different environments really shoot the ball well. So I had believed in their ability and their work ethic.

A lot of times, I don't sit there and actually believe in a person as much as I believe in their work, and I delegate a lot of things so I can watch. So when we break down things, we meet as a staff, and talk about -- I delegate it because I don't want to be a part of it to where I'm not seeing the other end of the court, I'm not seeing people because I'm passing or doing stuff or involved with it. I want to watch.

But I also want to watch how they carry themselves. A lot of people don't like that cocky high school kid and it gets under that skin. That cocky high school kid is a college player. Deep down he believes in himself. You have to have that. And we have a lot of guys sitting up here that has those qualities.

So when you struggle and things happen -- we won the Big Ten by three games. We are the No. 1 seed. To take on that loss and be able to do that, you still got to look back and say, we did have some success there. We don't need to change everything. But we do need to make some subtle changes. Myles Colvin, Cam Heide and Lance Jones really helped us.

I also thought we had to be more skilled. By doing that, not everybody gets to play as much or even play at all, and that's difficult because they've meant a lot to our program and they've done a lot of really good things. That's the part I hate about coaching because I want it to work. I want everybody on our team to have his role. I want everybody to be a starter. I want everybody to play and do that.

So it's probably not a great quality to have as a coach. It's a good one to have as a person because it eats at me when like we've got guys that don't get in the game. It eats at me when they don't play. They probably don't feel that I feel that way, but I do.

I just believe in the personnel that we had, and I felt we were going to make some improvements, but I didn't feel like what we were doing was wrong.

On the battle between Dalton Knecht and Zach Edey ...

Yeah, sure. Obviously we played against Dalton Knecht earlier in the season. I don't think they realized quite what they had at that point, even though he was a really good player and played well in that game. He's a consensus First Team All-American. He's probably going to be in the end of the lottery.

Yeah, he's a good player. You can't allow him to get to his sweet spots. You've got to have discipline. You've got to be able to stay attached to him. At times you've got to force him into some twos and just make it difficult with him. That's what great players do. Where you kind of cut your losses a little bit and not trying to take away 100 percent. You're trying to take away 80 percent of what he's trying to get accomplished.

Yeah, we don't take Zach for granted. So like some of the nights -- he should have got 50 tonight, if he makes his free throws. I thought he would get 50. I know the season is not over, but I thought he'd get 50 in a game this year.

The thing about it is -- and I played with Glenn Robinson, so that's my reference point, right? In terms of greatness in a player. He's very unselfish. So if you just get to your spots and stay with what you're doing and they just come and get him, now we're playing H-O-R-S-E. If they don't, we want him to be aggressive and score.

It was a good battle between those two guys.

On the emotions Painter shared with former player Robbie Hummel ...

Yeah, he was watering out when I got up there. That was hard.

More than anything, you appreciate the guys that have played for you, and you appreciate that they had opportunities to go other places and they chose your school or they chose you, however you want to look at it.

But we weren't very good when that class chose us. Our facilities were just okay. That's being nice. And we've really done a great job in the last 15 years of upgrading what we have.

When someone signs at your school and they have a lot of options, like E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel, and you got last place in the Big Ten and you're 35, 36 years old, and I hadn't done anything. So for our ability to get those guys and they believed in us, and we obviously got close, we got to Sweet 16, but we didn't get further. In their career, we won the league once and got second three times. He had two major injuries.

So his battle -- he should have played in the NBA for eight to 10 years, but because of his injuries and everything, he didn't. He was smart because now he's at the top of his game in what he does. I think everybody in this room would agree with that.

It just means a lot to a lot of people, but for someone like that, they deserve to -- you have guilt, there's no doubt about that. You have guilt because Gene Keady deserved to coach in a Final Four, and he deserved to play in one, and you're getting ready to go to one. I just appreciate what he did for us.

We had E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, we had two guys that were here were All Conference. When you take a job and if you've got some people that are already there to get started, it really helps you, and that was David Teague and Carl Landry. Those two were All-Conference players. We had to sign a class behind them, and that was the class that got us going.

Appreciative of everything that Rob has done for our program.

On what Painter told his team with five minutes left ...

Zach's got a competitive fight to him. He doesn't back down. When you have that elite physical size and you have that competitive spirit with it with some skill, it's pretty dangerous. He's pretty hard to handle.

We had some guys on fumes, I thought. I thought both teams had some guys on fumes, and we just had to dig deep, take care of the basketball, and just told him, hey, it's right here for us. This is what we worked towards. We put it in position. Trust the process. Take your shots when they're there.

Big fella is going to get the right of first refusal. We made sure they understand that. He doesn't have to shoot it, but he's got to touch it. Put them in that bind. Make them handle all that. He's going to pass if somebody's open. We have a rule. You want to double him, you want to mess with him, he's going to pass the ball, he's going to dig deeper. But if he stays one-on-one, his role is to score the ball.

On Purdue finally being able to put teams away ...

Yeah, we've played more offensive guys. We have more skill that is out there. I thought a big part of the game was when they went up 32-21, if I have the numbers right, and then we went on a run right then. We were very vulnerable at that point. We had 25 minutes to play. We had a long game. For us to be up after being down 11, I thought it was a great sign for us.

A lot of people feed off of makes, right? You get guys that go 5-for-6 from three, they'll defend better and rebound better when they're 5-for-6. But will they defend better and rebound better when they're 0-for-6? That's the sign of a championship team.

Today we're 3-for-15 from three, shoot 64 percent from the free-throw line and I didn't think it affected anything even though we had glaring mistakes from Dalton Knecht. When the ball got loose or rebounds happen, you've got to go to him. You've can't get separated from him.

He made some tough ones when he was supposed to but we gave him a handful of looks. And we were fortunate at the end. He had a couple of really good looks that didn't go down. We were very fortunate. Just staying with it.

Runs are a big part of the game, right? Obviously when they go against you, it can be the difference. But if you can get those good runs, if you can get two quality runs and you have a good team and you have good talent, you're normally going to win that game.

On Purdue's toughness when shots aren't falling ...

Our ability to rebound, it ends up being the difference, right? We had 10 turnovers. They had seven. But outrebounded by 20. In my opinion, it ends up being the difference.

Yeah, you have to grind. I said it after the Gonzaga game, I go, we made shots, and we really separated ourself in that second half. But if we don't make shots, how does this game end up?

Obviously you don't want that to happen. You want to go 10-for-15 from three and shoot 80 percent from the line, but that's the game of basketball. The ball doesn't always go in. That's going to be a guarantee. That's why people always say defense and rebounding travel because you can be constant in those areas.

I thought that rebounding piece for us was the difference.

On what it meant to cut down the nets ...

I don't normally do it. I don't normally cut the net down when we win championships and stuff. It's kind of not my deal. But they said I had to do it.

Nothing, just you get a lot of s--- from people on the other side, whether it's rivals or other people in the league, and that's their job, right? They're your rivals, you go against them, and that's part of it.

One thing I appreciated, especially from last year, was the people that supported us from Purdue. That was to me, those are the people that are in your corner no matter what. I just appreciate the Purdue faithful that stayed confident that we could get the job done while I was still the head coach.

On the advantages of having Braden Smith ...

No question about it. He's evolved as one of the best point guards in the country, if not the best point guard in the country. Just his ability to pass and see things. He didn't get to it a lot tonight in terms of shooting his pullup, but those of you that follow us have seen him, especially people that play drop coverage. He can really get to that pull-up, whether that's a three or whether getting to that 15-footer.

I think that's the most important thing for him is to stay consistent and keep looking for his shot, keep being aggressive because, when they take his shot away from him, now he can instinctually make passes, whether it's a post-up or a skip or what have you.

He's very knowledgeable, very instinctive, makes good decisions, but somebody you want the ball in his hands. That's what we've really found out is keeping the ball in his hands helps everybody, especially Zach. Now they've got to deal with him and stop him, and now they've got to deal with Zach coming into the post. If they overdo anything, then we go back and go in or we reverse it and go in. We just try to keep playing. He's been fabulous.

On still having Gene Keady around the program ...

It's great. He obviously deserves to have this moment, right? He worked so hard. Seeing him go into the Hall of Fame is one of the coolest things that I've seen in competitive sports for us here at Purdue.

He always comes at the end of the year and then travels with us and he's around. Kind of what he recalls from his coaching career and all the things and all the experiences that you had. They won three Big Ten Championships after I graduated. So like it's always something. You wanted to be a part of that. He's always included me, and I've always included him.

If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. So when you're 18 years old and you get recruited by somebody, you don't think 15 years later you're going to be the head coach and take his place, right? So to me, it was really surreal when I coached one year in college and they were interested in me, but I know he had a big part of it. I know he had a huge part of it, and I'm very grateful for that and very grateful for all he's done for me and our players.

Related stories on Purdue basketball

  • WHAT ZACH EDEY SAID: Zach Edey was dominant in Purdue's win over Tennessee, scoring 40 points and collecting 16 rebounds. He's cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats in college basketball history. Here's everything he had to say following the win over the Vols. CLICK HERE
  • WHAT LANCE JONES SAID: This season, Lance Jones has provided an athletic spark for Purdue. On Sunday, the senior guard hit a huge shot to help lift the Boilermakers to a win over the Volunteers. Here's what Jones had to say following the game. CLICK HERE
  • WHAT BRADEN SMITH SAID: In Sunday's win over Tennessee, Braden Smith scored nine points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Here's everything the star point guard had to say following his performance. CLICK HERE


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Dustin Schutte

DUSTIN SCHUTTE