Fairleigh Dickinson became the second No. 16 seed in history to win an NCAA Tournament game, stunning top-seeded Purdue 63-58 behind 19 points from Sean Moore and a relentless, hustling defense on Friday night.
The shortest team in the tourney, the Knights (21-15) showed no fear in swarming 7-foot-4 All-America center Zach Edey from the start. FDU’s players were quicker and more composed than the Big Ten champion Boilermakers (29-6).
Five years ago, UMBC showed the way for the little guys by overwhelming Virginia in the first 16-over-1 victory after numerous close calls over the years. Still, No. 16s had a 1-150 record before FDU’s shocker.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win the Northeast Conference Tournament, falling by one point in the title game to Merrimack, which couldn’t participate in the NCAA Tournament because of an NCAA rule that bars it from the postseason because it’s still completing its four-year transition from Division II.
“The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Tobin Anderson told his team on Wednesday night after defeating Texas Southern 84-61 in the First Four to earn the matchup with Purdue.
FDU held Purdue scoreless for more than 5 1/2 minutes down the stretch and moved ahead by five on a 3-pointer by Moore with 1:03 left. The Knights held on from there, becoming the second straight double-digit seed to send the Boilermakers home. Purdue was a 3 seed when it lost to 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16 last year.
ESPN also noted that the Fairleigh Dickinson win meant that of the approximately 20 million brackets filled out for its annual Tournament Challenge, zero perfect brackets remained in play.