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- Graduate of Washington & Lee University
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sean Moore raised his hands in the air as the chants of “F-D-U” came raining down from everywhere. The Columbus native then raced to his teammates before high-fiving anyone he could find.
On Friday night, Moore and Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off one of the biggest stunners in college basketball history. And with their 63-58 victory over top-seeded Purdue, the Knights became just the second 16-seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament.
Entering Friday, 16-seeds were 1-150 in the opening round. The Knights joined the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which became the first men’s 16-seed to beat a No. 1 by knocking off Virginia in 2018.
In many ways, Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset was even more improbable.
The Knights own the shortest roster — with an average height of 6-foot-1 — in Division I college basketball, and were facing Zach Edey, Purdue’s 7-foot-4, All-American center.
Edey scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But even with Edey patrolling the lane, the Knights still scored 24 points in the paint. And down the stretch, FDU kept Edey from taking over the game inside.
Instead, FDU turned its size disadvantage into a strength. The speedy Knights forced the Boilermakers into 16 turnovers, turning those into 15 points the other way.
The last of those proved to be the most critical.
With under two minutes to go, Purdue threw the ball to Edey on the post. But three Knights swarmed him before FDU’s Moore popped the ball loose. Off the turnover, Moore got the ball back for a driving layup, putting the Knights up 58-53.
On FDU’s next possession, Moore nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving him a career-high 19 points in his hometown.
Purdue still had one last chance to tie the game in the final seconds. But Moore blocked Braden Smith’s layup attempt out of bounds.
Off the inbounds play, Fletcher Loyer’s 3-point attempt from the corner missed everything before falling into the arms of the shortest player on the court, 5-foot-8 Demetre Roberts, who sealed the upset with two free throws, then another block at the other end.
In the past three days alone, FDU won half as many games as it did all of last season, when it finished 4-22.
This year, FDU didn’t even win its conference tournament — Merrimack defeated FDU 67-66 in the Northeast Conference championship game but remains ineligible for the NCAA tournament as it continues the process of reclassifying from Division II. Thus the conference’s automatic bid went to the Knights.
FDU coasted in the play-in game on Wednesday in Dayton, dominating Texas Southern 84-61.
Two days later, the Knights made history.
Fairleigh Dickinson closed as a 23.5-point underdog, making it the largest upset by point spread since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Teams favored by at least 23 points were 176-1 this season entering Friday (Iowa lost to Eastern Illinois as a 31.5-point favorite on Dec. 21).
The Knights were 16-1 to win Friday’s game straight-up at Caesars Sportsbook, and even bigger long shots at other sportsbooks. Purdue was 10-1 to win the entire tournament.
Excluding First Four games, Purdue became the first team to lose consecutive NCAA tournament games against 15-seeds or worse; the Boilermakers lost to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in last year’s Sweet 16. Purdue now has six losses against double-digit seeds in the round of 64, the most among Big Ten teams.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
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