Purdue advanced to the Elite Eight Thursday night for the first time since 2000 as the No. 3 seeded Boilermakers defeated No. 2 seed Tennessee 99-94 in overtime.
They wouldn’t be one of the 12 teams still alive in the tournament were it not for senior guard Ryan Cline scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting with seven 3-pointers.
At risk of over-embracing and inflating an incredible individual performance amid an NCAA Tournament that has seemingly been devoid of the usual amount of entertaining, wire-to-wire games, Cline’s shooting display won’t only be one of the most memorable moments from the 2019 NCAA Tournament but one that might be deservingly remembered as historically great.
In case you missed his performance in realtime or want to watch it again, here you go.
While we can’t predict the future in regards to how far Purdue’s tournament run will go or for how long Cline’s highlights from Thursday night will be replayed, we can attempt to provide context for where Cline’s Sweet 16 showing might stack up historically.
There have only been 18 players since 2011 who have made at least seven 3-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game, with Cline being the most recent, according to Sports Reference’s Player Game Finder tool that dates back to the 2010-11 season.
While the Sweet 16 is only halfway over, nine of those 18 performances have come this year, most notably Cline’s teammate Carsen Edwards scoring 42 points against Villanova on 9-of-16 shooting from 3-point range in the second round.
Here are the 18 players who have made at least seven 3-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game since 2011, listed in descending order in terms of points scored.
|Carsen Edwards||Purdue||March 23, 2019||Second Round||42||9||16||23.8|
|Buddy Hield||Oklahoma||March 26, 2016||Elite Eight||37||8||13||25.0|
|Dylan Windler||Belmont||March 21, 2019||First Round||35||7||14||21.3|
|Jimmer Fredette||BYU||March 19, 2011||Second Round||34||7||12||28.9|
|Darnell Edge||Fairleigh Dickinson||March 19, 2019||First Four||33||7||9||16.6|
|Jordan Burns||Colgate||March 22, 2019||First Round||32||8||13||16.3|
|Shelvin Mack||Butler||March 19, 2011||Second Round||30||7||12||16.0|
|Bronson Koenig||Wisconsin||March 16, 2017||First Round||28||8||17||14.5|
|Ryan Cline||Purdue||March 28, 2019||Sweet 16||27||7||10||12.1|
|Bradley Heslip||Baylor||March 17, 2012||Second Round||27||9||12||10.2|
|Bryce Alford||UCLA||March 19, 2015||First Round||27||9||11||15.4|
|Rickey McGill||Iona||March 22, 2019||First Round||26||7||9||15.8|
|Corey Davis Jr.||Houston||March 22, 2019||First Round||26||7||17||17.1|
|David Lighty||Ohio State||March 20, 2011||Second Round||25||7||7||12.1|
|Bryce Brown||Auburn||March 23, 2019||Second Round||25||7||11||15.9|
|Fletcher Magee||Wofford||March 21, 2019||First Round||24||7||12||20.3|
|Quinn Cook||Duke||March 21, 2014||First Round||23||7||10||11.6|
|Will Miller||Mount St. Mary’s||March 18, 2014||First Four||21||7||12||5.6|
For each single-game performance, Sports Reference provides a game score to “give a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game.” A 40 is given for an “outstanding performance” and a 10 indicates an average performance, according to Sports Reference.
Edwards’ 42 points earned a 29.8 game score, which was the highest of the 18 players who have made at least seven threes in an NCAA Tournament game since 2011, and Cline’s performance Thursday ranks fifth among the 18 with a game score of 24.3.
Edwards’ nine 3-pointers against Villanova is tied for fourth all-time for a single NCAA Tournament game behind Loyola Marymount’s Jeff Fryer (11), UNLV’s Freddie Banks (10) and Michigan’s Garde Thompson (10), according to the NCAA Tournament record book.
Edwards is one of eight players who have made nine threes in a tournament game and 25 players have made eight 3-pointers.
It’s safe to say that Edwards’ 42 points was a more impressive statistical achievement than Cline’s 27 but there’s something special about a role player significantly exceeding his typical levels of production in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, forcing overtime against (and eventually beating) a lower-seeded team.
Those are important considerations when looking for historical comparisons and reference points for Cline’s game, as are the outcome (did his team win or not?) and how many 3-point attempts it took (did it take 17 attempts to make seven 3-pointers or only nine?).
Listed below are the 11 players who have made at least nine 3-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game. Six of those games were in the first round and 10 were in the first weekend, which makes the lasting impact of these performances less than if the same players had the same 3-point shooting success in the Elite Eight or Final Four.
How often do you hear college basketball fans talking about Bryce Alford’s game against SMU or Johnny Hemsley’s performance against Lafayette?
|Player||School||Year||Round||Outcome||3PM||3PA||Points||Season Scoring Average|
|Jeff Fryer||Loyola Marymount||1990||Second Round||Won 149-115||11||15||41||22.7|
|Freddie Banks||UNLV||1987||Final Four||Lost 97-93||10||19||38||19.5|
|Roburt Sallie||Memphis||2009||First Round||Won 81-70||10||15||35||5.8|
|Garde Thompson||Michigan||1987||First Round||Won 97-82||9||12||33||14.5|
|Johnny Miller||Temple||1995||First Round||Lost 77-71||9||17||30||11.0|
|Johnny Hemsley||Miami (FL)||1999||First Round||Won 75-54||9||12||31||17.8|
|Ricky Paulding||Missouri||2003||Second Round||Lost 101-92||9||15||36||17.4|
|Gerry McNamara||Syracuse||2004||First Round||Won 80-75||9||13||43||17.2|
|Brady Heslip||Baylor||2012||Second Round||Won 80-63||9||12||27||10.2|
|Bryce Alford||UCLA||2015||First Round||Won 60-59||9||11||27||15.4|
|Carsen Edwards||Purdue||2019||Second Round||Won 87-61||9||16||42||23.8|
As previously stated, accuracy is an important part of the discussion. If Cline made seven 3-pointers but needed 18 tries, then his performance wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive. The fact that he was 7-of-10 and 6-of-7 in the second half made his shooting all the more special.
Here are the NCAA Tournament record-holders for single-game 3-point percentage (minimum six 3-pointers made).
|Player||School||Year||Round||Outcome||3PM||3PA||Points||Season Scoring Average|
|John Goldsberry||UNC-Wilmington||2003||First Round||Lost 75-73||8||8||26||4.9|
|Sam Cassell||Florida State||1993||Second Round||Won 94-63||7||7||31||18.3|
|David Lighty||Ohio State||2011||Second Round||Won 98-66||7||7||25||12.1|
|Mike Buck||Middle Tennessee||1989||First Round||Won 97-83||6||6||26||6.1|
|Migjen Bakalli||NC State||1991||First Round||Won 114-85||6||6||18||5.8|
|Rex Walters||Kansas||1993||First Round||Won 94-72||6||6||23||15.3|
|Tay Fisher||Siena||2008||First Round||Won 83-62||6||6||19||8.0|
|Nik Stauskas||Michigan||2013||Elite Eight||Won 79-59||6||6||22||11.0|
Ultimately, it’s not unreasonable to argue Ryan Cline’s 7-of-10 3-point shooting performance against Tennessee was, perhaps conservatively, one of the 15 to 20 greatest single-game 3-point shooting performances in the history of the NCAA Tournament, when you factor in the number of makes, 3-point shooting percentage, the round of the tournament, the game’s outcome and Cline’s single-game performance more than doubling his typical level of production.
The list of the greatest single-game 3-point shooting performances in the history of the NCAA Tournament, which is undoubtedly subjective but factors in the criteria outlined above, should probably include the following performances, in no particular order:
- Loyola Marymount’s Jeff Fryer – 11-of-15 vs. Michigan in the second round of the 1990 NCAA Tournament
- Indiana’s Steve Alford – 7-of-10 vs. Syracuse in the 1987 national championship
- UNLV’s Freddie Banks – 10-of-19 vs. Indiana in the 1987 Final Four
- Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield – 8-of-13 vs. Oregon in the 2016 Elite Eight
- Louisville’s Luke Hancock – 5-of-5 Michigan 2013 national championship (since vacated)
- Michigan’s Nik Stauskas – 6-of-6 vs. Florida in the 2013 Elite Eight
- North Carolina’s Hubert Davis – 5-of-5 vs. Eastern Michigan in the 1991 Elite Eight
- Kentucky’s Jamal Mashburn – 5-of-5 Kentucky Wake Forest in the 1993 Elite Eight
When you consider that Cline made six of his seven 3-pointers and scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half, including four 3-pointers in roughly the final five minutes of a back-and-forth game, each one either tying the game or giving Purdue a one-point lead, his name absolutely deserves to be on that list.
Where Ryan Cline’s Sweet 16 performance ranks all-time can be debated.
But his inclusion in the conversation can’t be.