#16 Fairleigh Dickinson shocks #1 Purdue

UMBC has company.

Fairleigh Dickinson joined the Retrievers in NCAA Tournament history and became the second No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the first round when it beat Purdue 63-58 Friday night.

The Knights simply outplayed Purdue in the second half as no one other than Zach Edey was able to do almost anything for Purdue. And even Edey made two key turnovers in the last three minutes.

Sean Moore scored the key points for FDU with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:03 left as the 7-foot-4 Eddy closed in on him. It gave the Knights a 61-56 lead and was Moore’s ninth straight point for FDU.

Purdue then had the ball with 30 seconds left, but Moore blocked a layup attempt and Fletcher Loyer’s 3-point attempt with less than 10 seconds left missed the rim.

UMBC — University of Maryland-Baltimore County — became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in 2018 when it defeated Virginia. And FDU’s upset may be even bigger than UMBC’s. The Retrievers were a 20.5-point underdog before the game against Virginia, and FDU was a 23.5-point underdog against the Boilermakers.

It’s also Purdue’s second straight tournament loss against a low-seeded team from New Jersey. The Boilermakers lost to No. 15 seed St. Peter’s in the Sweet 16 as a No. 3 seed a year ago. And the year before that, Purdue lost 78-69 to No. 13 North Texas as the No. 4 seed. The Boilermakers have lost their last three tournament games to low-seeded teams since making the Elite Eight in 2019.

FDU controlled the final eight minutes

UMBC defeated Virginia, 74-54, in its historic upset. This game was clearly not a blast. But it was also clear that one of the lowest ranked teams in the country was no match for the team with the best big man in the country.

Edey stands 10 inches taller than the tallest player in FDU’s starting lineup, and Purdue outscored the Knights by 10. But it was clear to anyone watching the game that FDU wasn’t afraid to battle inside with the Boilermakers and didn’t you were afraid to try to pry the ball out of Edey’s hands.

Edey inexplicably had just one shot attempt in the last 10 minutes of the game. He finished the game 7-of-11 from the field with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Everyone else on Purdue’s roster shot a combined 12-of-41, while the Boilermakers finished just 36 percent from the field as a team.

Purdue also struggled to make 3-pointers. Lower was 3-of-8 from behind the arc, while the rest of the team was 2-of-18.

The Boilermakers even led by six with 11:41 left. But FDU went on an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead with 9:59 left and Purdue never led in the game’s final eight minutes.

Has Tobin Anderson decided his chance?

In addition to becoming the second No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, FDU also became the first team to beat a No. 1 seed after playing in a play-in game earlier in the week. The Knights easily defeated Texas Southern for the right to play Purdue, and coach Tobin Anderson exuded confidence after that game.

Anderson told his team after the win that the more he watches Purdue, the more he feels his team can win. He said after the Purdue win that he didn’t intend for his speech to go in front of a bigger crowd than his team, but his team played with the confidence he showed after that win Tuesday night.

FDU didn’t even win its conference tournament

Most teams in Fairleigh Dickinson’s situation have to win their conference tournaments to get into the NCAA tournament. Still, FDU got a game against Texas Southern in the walk-in game simply by making its play for the conference tournament title.

FDU lost 67-66 to Merrimack in the Northeast Conference title game on March 7. But the Knights came into this game knowing they were in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to NCAA rules. Merrimack is in its fourth year at college basketball’s highest level after moving up from Division II. And antiquated NCAA rules prevent a team that moves up from qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for four seasons. With Merrimack ineligible for the tournament, FDU was the recipient of the NEC’s sole bid.

Conference tournament title or not, the turnaround FDU made from 2021-22 to this season was remarkable. The Knights were just 4-22 a season ago and parted ways with longtime coach Greg Herenda. The school recruited Anderson from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas and the Knights went 20-15 in the regular season.

Anderson also brought a lot of transfers with him, and they were the difference against Purdue. Moore, Demetrius Roberts and Grant Singleton played for Anderson at Aquinas and moved with him to FDU. Moore had 12 points and five rebounds, while Roberts hit two free throws after Lauer’s miss to rejuvenate the game.

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