When Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson told his team that they could “shock the world” and take done number one seed Purdue, one wonders if that was just a high-motivation speech or a genuine feeling about his team. Whatever the case may be, it worked, and FDU went out and stunned Purdue, 63-58, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
In shocking the Boilermakers, the Knights because only the second men’s number 16 seed to take down a number 1 seed in the tournament. Anderson wanted his team to really believe in themselves, despite number 16 seeds going just 1-150 in the opening round coming into the tournament.
FDU has the shortest roster in all of Division I men’s basketball, but it didn’t stop them from attacking inside. Forget that Purdue’s 7’ 4” center Zach Edey was defending the rim. Sure, Edey has his moments and finished with a strong 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots, but FDU nearly equaled Purdue’s total points in the paint.
What was the key to the monumental upset? The defensive pressure was applied by the FDU’s pesky, diminutive team. They forced 16 turnovers, which led to 15 points in their favor. None was more important than Sean Moore’s steal of Edey and scored with 1:42 left in the game to put FDU ahead by five.
Purdue had a final chance to even the score near the end, but Moore came to the rescue again, blocking a layup by Braden Smith, and then Fletcher Loyer air-balled a 3-point attempt.
This year, Roberts and guard Grant Singleton were transferred from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College. They had plenty of postseason experience in Division II, preparing them for the biggest NCAA basketball stage.
There have been plenty of upsets already in this year’s NCAA tournament, but none more than FDU, who was a 23.5-point underdog. Purdue is the first team in NCAA tournament history to lose two consecutive games against teams seeded 15 or lower.
FDU takes on FAU in the round of 32 on Sunday.