COLUMBUS – Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson said he thought the cameras were off in the locker room Wednesday when he told his players what he really thought about their upcoming opponent.
“The more I watch Purdue,” the Knights’ first-year coach told his team shortly after they won the NCAA tournament entry game in Dayton, Ohio, “the more I think we can beat them… go to shock the world.”
On Friday night, Fairleigh Dickinson did just that.
By defeating the Boilermakers, 63-58, the Knights became the second seed out of 16 to beat a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament.
Entering Friday, the top 16 seeds were 1-150 in the opening round. But Fairleigh Dickinson joined the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which became the first 16-man seed to beat a No. 1 by defeating Virginia in 2018.
“I wanted our guys to believe,” said Anderson, who said he didn’t realize his postgame message on Wednesday would appear on the national broadcast after FDU’s play-in win. “We (couldn’t) just be happy to be here.”
As it turned out, the Knights are not going anywhere yet.
Despite owning the shortest roster in Division I college basketball, with an average height of 6-foot-1, Fairleigh Dickinson relentlessly attacked the rim, even with zach edeythe 7-foot-4 All-American center from Purdue, roaming the inside.
Edey scored 21 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked three shots. But the Knights responded with 24 points in the paint on the other side (Purdue only had two more).
In different ways throughout the night, the FDU turned its apparent size disadvantage into a strength. The swift Knights surrounded Edey and pressured the Purdue guards. And they forced the Boilermakers to commit 16 turnovers, turning them into 15 upside down points.
The last two turned out to be the most critical.
With 1:42 to go, and FDU clinging to a one-possession lead, Knights ahead sean moore he took the ball from Edey. After the turnover, Moore recovered the ball for the driving layup, putting the Knights up 58-53.
“You could tell he was exhausted,” Moore said of Edey in the second half. “We keep attacking him, making him run in transition… there aren’t a lot of teams that can keep up with our speed and transition and how we move.”
On the next possession, Moore nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving him a career-high 19 points in his hometown of Columbus. After both baskets, chants of “FDU” began to flow from the Nationwide Arena bleachers, and even fans of the other teams in Columbus enjoyed watching the surprise.
The Boilermakers still had one last chance to tie the game in the dying seconds. But Moore blocked branden smithLayup attempt out of bounds. And off the inning play, a fletcher loyer The 3-point attempt from the corner all missed before falling into the arms of the shortest player on the court, 5-foot-8. demeter robertswho sealed the win with two free throws, then another block at the other end.
“We showed why we belong here,” said Roberts, who had 12 points along with four assists.
Roberts was one of the players Anderson brought with him from his previous stop, Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College. starting guard grant singletonwho added five assists and three steals on Friday, is another Santo Tomas de Aquino signing.
Together, they made three Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament and had a 14-5 postseason record entering Friday. Anderson said the experience was a big key for FDU, especially against Purdue’s freshman duo at the back of Loyer and Smith, who combined to commit 10 turnovers.
“It’s tough for freshmen playing two fifth-year students,” Anderson said. “(His) two freshman shooting guards will be fantastic. But I think having two fifth-year seniors…we had the advantage there.”
Fairleigh Dickinson closed as a 23.5-point underdog, making it the biggest upset by point spread since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. shots at other sportsbooks. Purdue went 10-1 to win the entire tournament.
“We had some decisions there that just weren’t great,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. “And it just allowed them to stick around and stay in the game.”
Excluding the first four games, Purdue became the first team to lose consecutive NCAA tournament games against a 15-seed or worse; the Boilermakers lost to the 15-seeded Saint Peter’s in last year’s Sweet 16. Purdue now has six losses against double-digit seeds in the round of 64, the most among Big Ten teams.
“I wanted our guys to believe. We (couldn’t) just be happy to be here.”
Tobin Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson’s trainer
“I’m still in shock right now,” Moore said nearly 30 minutes after the win, still drenched in water from the postgame celebration in the locker room. “With a moment like this, not knowing that you’d be here and then you’re here… maybe tomorrow I’ll feel normal again.”
In the past three days alone, FDU has won half the games it won all of last season, when it went 4-22.
This year, FDU didn’t even win its conference tournament: Merrimack defeated FDU 67-66 in the Northeast Conference championship game, but remains ineligible for the NCAA tournament as the Division II reclassification process continues. . Therefore, the automatic conference offer went to the Knights.
But FDU slipped into the play-in game on Wednesday in Dayton, dominating Texas Southern 84-61.
Two days later, the Knights made history. And Anderson became the first coach in his first season at any school in the last 30 years to win in the first round of the tournament as a 15th or 16th seed.
Anderson said his team was excited to prepare to keep his career alive. Fairleigh Dickinson plays next Sunday against Florida Atlantic, a 66-65 winner over Memphis.
But first, Anderson admitted, the Knights had laundry to do. They only packed so much for the trip.
“I had faith,” Anderson said. “But I’m not sure I believed that much.”
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.