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Fairleigh Dickinson stuns No. 1 seed Purdue in March Madness

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fairleigh Dickinson downed a giant.

Pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, the undersized and underdog Knights upset Purdue 63-58 on Friday night, becoming the second No. 16 seed to win a game in March Madness.

The shortest of the nation’s 363 Division I teams, the Knights (21-15) showed no fear as they swarmed 7-foot-4 All-America center Zach Edey early on and simply outplayed the Big League champion. Ten Boilermakers (29-6).

“If we played them 100 times, they probably would have beaten us 99 times,” UDF coach Tobin Anderson said. “Play them 100 times, we have a win. But tonight is the one we had to be unique, we had to be unorthodox. We had to make it difficult for them, just be different. ”

Sean Moore scored 19 points to lead FDU and a relentless defensive charge — the Knights pressed most of the game — by a team that now has everyone’s attention.

Five years ago, UMBC led the way for the little guys by crushing Virginia in the first 16-to-1 victory after many close calls over the years. Still, the No. 16s were 1-150 against the No. 1s and were 1-151 overall before the FDU clash.

After the final horn, FDU players swarmed to the Nationwide Arena floor, where Memphis and Florida Atlantic fans awaiting the final game of the day joined forces to cheer on the Knights in the frantic final minutes. .

The Knights will meet FAU — a 66-65 winner over Memphis — on Sunday for a spot at the Sweet 16 and a trip next week to play at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a short drive from the private school’s main 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. It’s crazy. But it’s amazing.”

Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win the Northeastern Conference tournament, dropping a point in the title game against Merrimack, who was barred from the NCAA tournament due to a rule of the NCAA barring him from the playoffs as he is still completing his four-year transition from Division II.

FDU held Purdue scoreless for more than 5 1/2 minutes on the stretch and moved ahead five on a 3-pointer by Moore – who is from suburban Columbus – with 1:03 left.

The Knights held their ground from there, becoming the third straight 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 knocked out in the first round by 13th-seeded 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 would throw several punches. Just throw back 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 final nine minutes, and every time he touched the ball there were FDU players draped all around him.

“A lot of times they had a guy guarding behind and a guy sitting on my lap,” Edey said. ”They were flat out the whole game. Made it very difficult to get captures. Kudos to them, they had a great game plan. And they executed it very well. ”

When Purdue’s late push failed and his season ended, Edey tightened his jersey suspenders and walked stone-faced towards Purdue’s locker room.

The junior center is a possible choice in the NBA lottery, but the bitterness of this loss could tempt Edey to stay another year.

“I don’t have an opinion on that,” Edey said when asked about his future. ”I will make my decision in the future.”

The Knights’ two previous NCAA Tournament wins have come in the top four, including this year when they beat Texas Southern 84-61. After that game, Anderson told his players he thought he could handle Edey and Co.

“The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” Anderson said with a locker room camera.

Some of the Purdue players said they felt disrespected by the comments, which turned out to be prophetic.

“It was the right message, the wrong audience,” Anderson said. “I would have said that without a camera. I didn’t want to upset Purdue. That wasn’t the idea at all. But that has to be the message. We’re trying to win the next game. We can’t be happy about it. ‘be here.”

”And guys have to believe. ”

Just being in the tournament was quite the feat for FDU, which went 4-22 a year ago and now has two NCAA Tournament wins in three days.

It was Anderson’s first season at the school, and after landing the job in May, he held practice the first night just so he knew what he had to work with from a team that had the second. program’s worst record 58-year history.

It wasn’t much, so he brought three players — Roberts, Grant Singleton and Moore — with him from Division II powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.

Turns out they’re giant slayers.

“We’re the shortest team in the country,” said Anderson. “But we made him (Edey) uncomfortable. And the things he did weren’t easy baskets. I don’t think he ever felt very comfortable. And it was just a great team effort.”

”We were slumped in the paint. We shot some shooters. Let’s get them 3s, but don’t give them 3s — let’s get them 3s. Just an incredible team effort.”

Purdue finished 5 of 26 from beyond the arc – including 3 of 15 in the second half.

It was the Boilermakers, not the undersized Knights, who were rushing from the opening tip.

Purdue may have had oversized Fairleigh Dickinson on the floor and in the stands as a raucous group of Boilermakers fans gave their team what looked like home-court advantage despite being at 240 miles from West Lafayette, Indiana.

However, when the Knights’ Joe Munden drained a 3-point drop in the first half, chants of “FDU!” erupted inside the arena and it became apparent that this small team had big dreams.

Without a player on his 6-6 plus roster, Fairleigh Dickinson sometimes needed two players to guard Edey – one front and one back – and he missed his first three shots before a dunk.

Edey showed some frustration and at one point said to one of the officials, “Sir, he’s got my left arm.”

Purdue eventually settled in and had 11 straight points — four on Edey’s free throws — to take a 24-19 lead. The Knights, however, responded with their own push and Heru Bligen’s layup after a steal helped FDU take a 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.


AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and support: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top -25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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