COLUMBUS, Ohio — Fairleigh Dickinson became the second No.
The 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. FDU players were faster and more composed than the Big Ten Boilermakers champion (29-6).
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 joined forces to cheer on the Knights in the closing minutes.
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 second consecutive double-digit seed to send the Boilermakers home. Purdue was a 3 seed when it lost to 15 seed Saint Peter’s, another small New Jersey school, in the Sweet 16 last year.
Edey finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds in what may have been his last college game, but the Knights consistently denied him the ball down the stretch. He hasn’t attempted a shot in the last nine minutes. The junior center is a possible NBA lottery, but the bitterness of this loss could prompt him to stick around for another year.
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, Knights manager Tobin 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 told his players in the locker room.
Some of Purdue’s players said they felt disrespected by the comments, which proved to be prophetic.
The Knights will now meet the Memphis-Florida Atlantic winner on Sunday for a Sweet 16 spot and a trip to play New York’s Madison Square Garden next week, just a short distance from the private school’s campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.