UMBC is an institution.
Fairleigh Dickinson joined the Retrievers in NCAA Tournament lore and became just the second No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 in the first round when it beat Purdue 63-58 on Friday night.
The Knights outscored Purdue in the second half as nobody but Zach Eddy was able to get anything going for Purdue. Edey also had two key turnovers in the final three minutes.
Sean Moore scored important points for FDU with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:03 left. 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 on three downs, but Moore blocked a layup attempt and Fletcher Lower’s 3-point attempt with 10 seconds left missed the rim.
UMBC – University of Maryland-Baltimore County – became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 in 2018 when it beat Virginia. And FDU’s upset could be bigger than UMBC’s. The Retrievers were outscored by 20.5 points against Virginia and FDU was outscored by 23.5 points against the Boilermakers.
It was Purdue’s second straight loss against a lower-ranked team from New Jersey. The Boilermakers lost in the Sweet 16 to 15th-seeded St. Peter’s a year ago as the No. 3 seed. The year before, Purdue lost 78-69 to No. 13 North Texas. Since making it to the Elite Eight in 2019, the Boilermakers have lost their last three competitive games against lower-ranked teams.
FDU controlled the final eight minutes
UMBC defeated Virginia 74-54, breaking its all-time record. This game is not a blowout. But it was also clear that one of the nation’s shortest teams wasn’t overmatched against one of the nation’s best big men.
Edey stands 10 inches taller than the tallest player in FDU’s starting lineup, and Purdue led the Knights by 10 rebounds. But it was clear to anyone watching the game that FDU wasn’t afraid to battle the Boilermakers. Try to rip the ball out of Ede’s hands.
Eddie inexplicably only attempted one shot 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 the Purdue roster combined for 12 of 41 points.
Purdue had a hard time making the 3-pointer. The rest of the team was 2 of 18 and 3 of 8 from behind the low arc.
The Boilermakers 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 regained the lead in the game’s final eight minutes.
Did Tobin Anderson call his shot?
In addition to becoming just the second No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed, FDU also became the first team to defeat a No. 1 seed after playing in a play-in game earlier in the week. The Knights easily beat 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 looked at Purdue, the more he felt his team could win. After the Purdue win, he said he didn’t want his speech to go to an audience bigger 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 must win their conference matches to make the NCAA tournament. Nevertheless, FDU earned a matchup against Texas Southern in the play-in game, making the title game of its conference tournament.
FDU lost to Merrimack 67-66 in the Northeast Conference title game on March 7. But the Knights entered that game knowing they were in the NCAA Tournament thanks to NCAA rules. After moving up from Division II in the fourth year of Merrimack College basketball. And the NCAA’s outdated rules prevent a team from advancing from qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for four seasons. Since Merrimack was ineligible for the tournament, FDU received the NEC’s sole bid.
Conference tournament title or not, FDU’s turnaround from 2021-22 to this season has been remarkable. The Knights were 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 during the regular season.
Anderson brought several transfers with him, and they were the difference against Purdue. Moore, Demetrius Roberts and Grant Singleton played for Anderson at Aquinas and transferred to FDU with him. Moore had 12 points and five rebounds, while Roberts hit two free throws after Lower missed to ice the game.