No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson delivered the biggest upset of this year’s tournament on Friday night, upsetting top seed Purdue 63-58 in Columbus, Ohio.
Leading by one at half-time, the Knights managed to hold on to their lead, as a five-and-a-half-minute late scoreline condemned the Boilermakers to a first-round exit.
“We shocked the world!” Knights coach Tobin Anderson told CBS after the game.
And it can’t happen to a better bunch of guys, a better bunch of fans, my family, the whole thing. We’re ecstatic, we get to stay in Columbus, I love it.”
Sean Moore led the scoring for Fairleigh Dickinson with 19 points, while Demetre Roberts (12 points) and Cameron Tatum (10 points) also scored in double digits.
“People didn’t think we belonged here, we’re just showing people we can do it,” Moore said after the game.
Fairleigh Dickinson players went wild after earning the historic upset over Purdue
Fairleigh Dickinson guard Demetre Roberts celebrates in the first half of the match
Fairleigh Dickinson guard Grant Singleton (4) celebrates after a basket against Purdue in the second half
Fairleigh Dickinson guard Joe Munden Jr. (1) celebrates beating Purdue
“He believed in me from day one,” Moore added of his coach Anderson.
“A lot of coaches slept with me when I was recruited. He believed in me, so I followed him, and you see where I am now.’
The Knights will face the winner of the Memphis-FAU matchup on Sunday.
The shortest team in the tournament, the Knights (21-15) showed no fear in swarming Purdue’s 7-foot-4 All-America center Zach Edey from the start.
Despite the 21 points, FDU’s players were faster and more in control than the Big Ten champion Boilermakers (29-6).
Five years ago, UMBC led the way for the little guys by beating Virginia in its first 16-over-1 victory after countless close calls over the years.
Still, No. 16s had a 1-150 record before the FDU shock.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win the Northeast Conference Tournament, falling behind Merrimack by one point in the title game, which was unable to participate in the NCAA Tournament due to an NCAA rule barring it from the postseason as it still lost its four- year transition from Division II.
After the final whistle, the FDU players squabbled on the floor of the Nationwide Arena, as the Memphis and Florida Atlantic fans joined forces to cheer on the Knights in the dying minutes.
Edey was consistently denied the ball along the trajectory. He made no attempt in the last nine minutes. The junior center is a possible NBA lottery pick, but the bitterness of this defeat could push him to stay for another year.
Purdue saw its championship aspirations come to a halt with the shocking losses
Trey Kaufman-Renn, Caleb Furst, Brandon Newman and guard Ethan Morton (25) sit on the bench in the closing seconds of the second half
Purdue head coach Matt Painter of the Purdue Boilermakers leaves court after losing
The Knights’ two previous NCAA Tournament wins were in the First Four, also this year, when they defeated Texas Southern 84-61. After that game, Knights coach Tobin Anderson told his players he thought they could handle Edey and Co.
“The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” Anderson told his players in the locker room.
Some Purdue players said they felt disrespected by the comments, which turned out to be prophetic.
The Knights will now meet the Memphis-Florida Atlantic winner on Sunday for a Sweet 16 berth and travel to play next week at New York’s Madison Square Garden – just a short drive from the private school’s campus in Teaneck, New Jersey .