FDU makes history, Stuns No. 1 seed Purdue
Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2023
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Fairleigh Dickinson became the second No. 16 seed in history to win an NCAA Tournament game, stunning top-seeded Purdue 63-58 behind 19 points from Sean Moore and a relentless, hustling defense on Friday night.
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’s players were quicker and more composed than the Big Ten champion Boilermakers (29-6).
Five years ago, Maryland-Baltimore County showed the way for the little guys by overwhelming Virginia in the first 16-over-1 victory after numerous close calls over the years. Still, No. 16s had a 1-150 record against No. 1s and were 1-151 overall before FDU’s shocker.
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After the final horn, FDU’s players mobbed each other on the floor, where fans from Memphis and Florida Atlantic joined forces in cheering on the Knights in the closing minutes.
The Knights will meet the Memphis-FAU winner on Sunday for a Sweet 16 berth and a trip next week to play at Madison Square Garden in New York — a short drive from the private school’s campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.
“We just made history, boys … college basketball history, for this whole school,” FDU head coach Tobin Anderson told his team in the celebratory locker room. “We’re playing pretty (darn) well now. Hydrate, do all stuff you do, the ride is not over yet. We can do something more.”
FDU didn’t win the Northeast Conference Tournament, losing by one point in the title game to Merrimack, which couldn’t participate in the NCAA Tournament because of an NCAA rule that bars it from the postseason because it’s completing its four-year transition from Division II.
FDU held Purdue scoreless for more than 5 1/2 minutes down the stretch and moved ahead by five on a 3-pointer by Moore — who is from suburban Columbus — with 1:03 left. The Knights held on from there, becoming a 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 point and 15 rebounds in what may have been his final college game, but the Knights consistently denied him the ball in the second half. He didn’t attempt a shot in the final nine minutes. The junior center is a potential NBA lottery pick, but the bitterness of this defeat could sway him to stick around.
The Knights’ two prior NCAA Tournament wins came in the First Four, including this year, when they drubbed Texas Southern 84-61. After that game, Anderson told his players he believed they could handle Edey and Co.
“The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” Anderson said in the locker room.
Some of Purdue’s players said they felt disrespected by the comments, which turned out to be prophetic.
Just being in the tourney was quite an accomplishment for FDU, which went 4-22 a year ago.
This was Anderson’s first season at the school he held a practice the first night just so he knew what he had to work with from a team that had the second-worst record in the program’s 58-year history.