When Fairleigh Dickinson beat Purdue 63-58 on Friday night, it joined the Retrievers in NCAA tournament history as the second No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 in the first round. And now they are on their way to play Florida Atlantic in the second round of March Madness.
The Knights just played better than Purdue in the second half, when no one else but Zach Edey could do much for Purdue. Even Edey gave the ball away twice in the last three minutes, which were both big.
With 1:03 left, Fairleigh Dickinson’s Sean Moore hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key as 7-foot-4 Edey closed in on him. This was the shot that won the game. That gave the Knights a 61-56 lead, and Moore’s point was FDU’s ninth in a row.
Then, with 30 seconds left and a three-point deficit, Purdue had the ball, but Moore stopped a layup, and Fletcher Loyer’s 3-point shot with less than 10 seconds left didn’t go in.
When it beat Virginia, UMBC (the University of Maryland-Baltimore County) became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in 2018. And Fairleigh Dickinson may be even more surprised than UMBC. Before the game against Virginia, the Retrievers were a 20.5-point underdog, and FDU was a 23.5-point underdog against the Boilermakers.
It’s also the second time in a row that Purdue has lost in a tournament to a low-seeded New Jersey team. A year ago, the No. 3 seed Boilermakers lost to the No. 15 seed St. Peter’s in the Sweet 16 round. The year before, Purdue lost to No. 13 North Texas, 78-69, when they were the No. 4 seed. Since making it to the Elite Eight in 2019, the Boilermakers have lost their last three tournament games to low-seeded teams.
Fairleigh Dickinson ran the last eight minutes of the game
In a historic upset, UMBC beat Virginia by a score of 74-54. It was clear that this game wasn’t a rout. But it was clear that the team with the best big man in the country was no match for one of the shortest teams in the country.
Edey is 10 inches taller than the player in Fairleigh Dickinson’s starting lineup who is the tallest. Purdue also had 10 more rebounds than the Knights. But anyone who watched the game could see that FDU wasn’t afraid to fight inside with the Boilermakers or try to take the ball from Edey.
Why did Edey only take one shot in the last ten minutes of the game? He made 7 of 11 shots from the field and ended the game with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Everyone else on Purdue’s team only made 12 of 41 shots, so the Boilermakers as a whole only shot 36% from the field.
Even Purdue had trouble making a 3-point shot. Lower made 3 of 8 shots from beyond the arc, but the rest of the team only made 2 of 18 attempts.
With 11:41 left, the Boilermakers were even ahead by six points. But FDU went on an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead with 9:59 left in the game, and Purdue never took the lead again in the last eight minutes.
Did Tobin Anderson ask for the ball?
FDU was the first team to beat a No. 1 seed after having played in a play-in game earlier in the week. They also became the second No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1. The Knights beat Texas Southern easily to earn the right to play Purdue, and after that game, coach Tobin Anderson was very sure of his team.
After his team won, Anderson told them that the more he watched Purdue, the more he thought their team could win. He said after the Purdue win that he didn’t mean for his speech to be heard by more people than his team, but on Tuesday night, his team played with the same confidence that he showed.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win the tournament for its own league
Most teams in Fairleigh Dickinson’s position have to win their conference tournaments to get into the NCAA tournament. But FDU got to play Texas Southern in the play-in game just by making it to the championship game of its conference tournament.
On March 7, FDU lost to Merrimack 67-66 in the Northeast Conference championship game. But because of NCAA rules, the Knights knew they were in the tournament when they went into that game. After moving up from Division II, Merrimack is in its fourth year at the highest level of college basketball. And the NCAA’s old rules make it so that a team that moves up can’t play in the NCAA tournament for four years. Since Merrimack wasn’t good enough to make the tournament, the NEC’s only bid went to Fairleigh Dickinson.
Whether or not FDU wins the conference tournament this year, the change from 2021-22 to this season has been amazing. Last season, the Knights had a record of just 4-22, and their longtime coach, Greg Herenda, left the team. Anderson was hired from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas, whose Knights finished the regular season with a 20-15 record.
Anderson also brought with him a lot of transfers, who made the difference against Purdue. Moore, Demetre Roberts, and Grant Singleton all played for Anderson at Aquinas and followed him to Fairleigh Dickinson. Moore scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds, and Roberts won the game by making two free throws after Loyer missed one.
Fairleigh Dickinson players after their team became just the second team to beat the number one team in the first round, and the first to do that after winning the play-in game earlier in the week#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/rP3gBRlvKP
— YouWager.lv (@YouWager_FF) March 18, 2023