Fairleigh Dickinson Stuns Top-Seeded Purdue, Becomes Second No. 16 Seed to Win NCAA Tournament Game
An Unforgettable Upset
Fairleigh Dickinson shocked everyone, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, beating top-seeded Purdue 63-58 on Friday night. This victory made them the second No. 16 seed to win an NCAA tournament game in history and has everyone talking about the team.
The Knights, the shortest of the 363 Division I teams in the country, showed no fear in swarming 7-foot-4 All-America center Zach Edey from the start and simply outplayed the Big Ten champion Boilermakers (29-6). FDU coach Tobin Anderson said that if they played 100 times, Purdue would probably win 99 times, but tonight was different.
A Relentless Charge
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. The Knights showed great skill in their performance despite being huge underdogs.
Knocking Out the Giant
After the final horn, FDU’s players mobbed each other on the floor of Nationwide Arena. The players from Memphis and Florida Atlantic who were waiting for the day’s final game joined forces in cheering on the Knights in the final, frantic minutes. The Knights will face Florida Atlantic for a Sweet 16 berth and a trip next week to play at Madison Square Garden in New York, just a short drive from the private school’s main campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.
A Team of Giant Slayers
Five years ago, UMBC showed the world how the smaller teams can triumph by overwhelming Virginia in the first 16-over-1 victory after numerous close calls over the years. FDU’s two prior NCAA Tournament wins came in the First Four, including this year when they drubbed Texas Southern 84-61. This season, FDU’s coach, Tobin Anderson, held a practice on his 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. It wasn’t a lot, so he brought three players who had previously played for him at Division II St. Thomas Aquinas.
A Great Team Effort
Edey finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds in what may have been his final 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 anytime he touched the ball, there were FDU players draped all around him. Purdue finished 5 of 26 from beyond the arc — including 3 of 15 in the second half. “We were sagging in the paint. We went off certain shooters. Let’s make them make 3s, but not give them 3s — make them make 3s. Just an unbelievable team effort,” says Tobin Anderson.
Without a player on its roster taller than 6-6, Fairleigh Dickinson sometimes needed two players to guard Edey — one in front and one behind — and he missed his first three shots before a dunk. Edey showed some frustration and at one point told one of the officials, “Sir, he’s holding my left arm.” The Knights, however, responded with their own spurt and Heru Bligen’s layup after a steal helped FDU take a 32-31 lead into halftime. This small team has big dreams.