David has downed Goliath. Literally.
The No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, the shortest team in Division I men's basketball, shocked the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers with a 63-58 victory in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Fairleigh Dickinson becomes just the second 16-seed to upset a 1-seed in tournament history. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) was the first program to do so with a blowout win over Virginia in 2018.
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The Boilermakers have now been bounced from the Big Dance by a double-digit seed for three straight years. They fell to No. 13 North Texas in the 2021 first round and to No. 15 Saint Peter's in the 2022 Sweet 16. Like Saint Peter's, FDU is also a small New Jersey school.
“We just made history, boys ... college basketball history, for this whole school,” FDU coach Tobin Anderson told his team in the celebratory locker room, via the Associated Press. “We’re playing pretty damn well now. Hydrate, do all stuff you do, the ride is not over yet. We can do something more.”
FDU has taken a unique path to its first appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Knights lost in the NEC tournament championship game but still received an automatic bid. That's because the team that beat them, Merrimack, was ineligible for March Madness due to the D-I transition rule.
The Knights wound up in the First Four, where they easily disposed of Texas Southern for the program's second ever NCAA Tournament win.
Following that First Four victory, Anderson told his team "the more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them." It was quite the bold statement to make considering FDU's team has an average height of 6-foot-1 according to KenPom, and the Knights would be tasked with defending the nation's most dominant player, who happens to stand 7-foot-4.
But as the Knights sold out to contain Edey, the Boilermakers failed to make them pay for giving up a ton of wide-open looks from 3-point range. Purdue shot just 5 of 26 from 3 while also coughing up 16 turnovers to a swarming FDU defense.
Despite the rough offensive showing, the Boilermakers actually looked like they had gained control of the game in the second half. After a tight battle for the first 25-plus minutes, Purdue ripped off an 11-0 run to seize a 47-41 lead with under 12 minutes remaining.
FDU, however, refused to go away and responded with a 13-3 run to reclaim the lead for good. Sean Moore, who led FDU with 19 points, knocked down a huge 3-pointer to extend the Knights' lead to five with just over a minute to play.
Edey finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds but didn't attempt a shot in the final nine-plus minutes.
FDU will next look to upset the East Region's No. 9-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday.
If the Knights can punch their first ever ticket to the Sweet 16, they'll play at Madison Square Garden in New York, roughly 15 miles away from the school's Hackensack, New Jersey campus.