COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Fairleigh Dickinson brought down a giant.
In pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, the undersized and underdog Knights stunned top seed Purdue 63-58 on Friday night, becoming the second No. 16 seed to win a game in March Madness.
Shortest team in the tournament, the Knights (21-15) showed no fear in swarming 7-foot-4 All-America center Zach Edey from the start and simply beat the Big Ten champion Boilermakers (29-6) .
“If we played them 100 times, they’d probably beat us 99 times,” said FDU head coach Tobin Anderson. “Play it 100 times, we have one win. But tonight we had to be unique, we had to be unorthodox. We had to make things difficult with them, just be different.
Sean Moore scored 19 points to lead FDU and an unrelenting defensive charge — Knight pressed most of the game — from a team that now has everyone’s attention.
Five years ago, UMBC led the way for the little boys by sweeping Virginia in their first 16-for-1 victory after numerous close calls over the years. However, #16s had a 1-150 record against #1s and were 1-151 overall before the FDU shock.
After the final horn, FDU players mobbed each other on the floor of Nationwide Arena, where Memphis and Florida Atlantic fans who had been waiting for the final game of the day joined forces to cheer on the Knights in the final, frantic minutes .
The Knights will now meet the Memphis-FAU winner on Sunday for a Sweet 16 spot and a trip next week to play New York’s Madison Square Garden, a short distance from the private school’s campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.
“Man, I can’t even explain it,” Moore said. “I’m still in shock right now. I can not believe it. He’s crazy. But it’s great.
Fairleigh Dickinson also didn’t win the Northeast Conference tournament, losing by one point in the title game to Merrimack, who missed the NCAA tournament due to an NCAA rule that bars him from the postseason because he’s still completing his four – transition year from Division II.
FDU held Purdue scoreless for more than 5 1/2 minutes down the stretch and moved up by five on a three-pointer by Moore — who hails from suburban Columbus — with 1:03 left.
The Knights held on from there, becoming the third consecutive double-digit seed to send the Boilermakers home. Purdue was a No. 3 seed when it lost to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s, another small New Jersey school, in the Sweet 16 last year. The Boilermakers were eliminated in the first round by 13th seed North Texas in 2021.
“Our job was just to get in the game and throw a punch,” said FDU’s Demetre Roberts, 20 inches shorter than Edey. “We knew they were going to throw more punches. Return a punch. We knew what kind of game it was.
Edey finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds in what may have been his last college game, but the Knights were masterful against him in the second half. Edey didn’t attempt a shot in the last nine minutes and every time he touched the ball the Knights were all around him.
“A lot of times they would have a guy guarding from behind and a guy basically sitting on my lap,” Edey said. “They were full fronting for the whole game. It made it very difficult to get catches. We thank them, they had a great game plan coming up. And they executed it very well.
When Purdue’s last push failed and his season ended, Edey clutched the shoulder straps of his jersey and walked unmoved towards the Purdue locker room.
The junior center is a possible NBA lottery, but the bitterness of this loss could convince Edey to stick around for another year.
“I have no opinion on that,” Edey said when asked about his future. “I’ll make my decision moving forward.”
The Knights’ previous two NCAA Tournament victories have come in the top four, including this year when they beat Texas Southern 84-61. After that game, Anderson told his players that he believed he could handle Edey and Co.
“The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” Anderson said into a locker room camera.
Some of Purdue’s players said they felt disrespected by the comments, which proved to be prophetic.
“It was the right message, the wrong audience,” Anderson said. “I would have said that without the camera. I didn’t want to piss off Purdue. That wasn’t the idea at all. But that must be the message. We are trying to win the next game. We can’t be happy to be here.”
“And the boys have to believe.”
Just being in the tournament was quite an accomplishment for FDU, who went 4-22 a year ago.
This was Anderson’s first season at the school, and after getting the job in May, he held a practice the first night just to learn what he had to work with from a team that had the second-worst record in the program’s 58-year history. year.
That wasn’t much, so he brought along three players — Roberts, Grant Singleton and Moore — from Division II powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.
It turns out they are giant hunters.
And it was the Boilermakers, not the underpowered Knights, who were stirring from the opening tip.
Purdue may have had outsized Fairleigh Dickinson on the floor and in the bleachers as a rowdy group of Boilermakers fans gave their team what felt like home field advantage despite being 240 miles from West Lafayette, Indiana.
However, when the Knights’ Joe Munden drained a pitch back 3-pointer in the first half, “FDU!” chants erupted inside the arena and it became obvious that this small team had big dreams.
Without a player on her taller roster of 6-foot-6, Fairleigh Dickinson sometimes needed two players to protect Edey — one in front and one in back — and she missed her first three shots before a dunk.
Edey showed some frustration and at one point said to one of the officers, “Sir, he’s holding my left arm.”
Purdue eventually settled down and had 11 straight points — four on Edey’s free throws — to take a 24–19 lead. The Knights, however, responded with their own snap and Heru Bligen’s layup after a steal helped FDU make it 32-31 at halftime.
Roberts finished with 12 points and 6-4 forward Cameron Tweedy had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting for FDU.
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