Fairleigh Dickinson, Barely in the N.C.A.A. Tournament, Topples Purdue in a

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, the shortest team in men’s college basketball, took down top-seeded Purdue and its magisterial 7-foot-4 big man Zach Edey on Friday, delivering a shocking N.C.A.A. tournament upset that epitomized the lore of the March Madness underdog.

The game set off scenes of euphoria and stupor in Nationwide Arena, the N.H.L. home of the Blue Jackets, where thousands of Purdue fans from bordering Indiana had crowded in expecting their Big Ten championship-winning team to begin a long march toward the Final Four.

Instead, when the final buzzer went off, Fairleigh Dickinson players raced to midcourt, yelling wildly and forming a scrum in front of their fans, who wielded cellphone cameras to record the most prominent win in the school’s athletic history. Coaches and employees of the team leaped into each other’s arms. Much of the crowd remained standing, gawking at the scene.

“I can’t even explain it. I’m shocked right now,” Sean Moore, a junior forward who led Fairleigh Dickinson with 19 points, said after the game went final, his team on top, 63-58. “I can’t believe it.”

The win was just the second time a men’s No. 16 seed had defeated a No. 1 in the single-elimination tournament, after the University of Maryland, Baltimore County beat Virginia in 2018 in a 20-point rout. On the women’s side, No. 16 seed Harvard beat No. 1 Stanford in the 1998 tournament.

F.D.U., located in Teaneck, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Upper Manhattan, had never advanced to the second round of the tournament before Friday. The Knights had to defeat Texas Southern on Wednesday in a play-in game just for the right to play Purdue, which had just won the Big Ten tournament on Sunday.

“If we played them 100 times, they’d probably beat us 99 times,” Tobin Anderson, F.D.U.’s first-year coach, said after the game. His team — short, young and a 23-point underdog — “had to be unique,” he said. “We had to be unorthodox.”

Purdue struggled in virtually every aspect of the game. Normally sharp from long range, the Boilermakers shot under 20 percent from the 3-point line. And while they outrebounded their shorter opponent, F.D.U. grabbed 11 critical offensive rebounds, slowing Purdue’s momentum as it tried to take back control.

Purdue frequently let F.D.U.’s rotation of small guards, who entered and exited the game like a hockey team, slide around screens for easy looks at the basket. Still, F.D.U., which led for the majority of the game, was inconsistent, shooting less than 40 percent.

But its defense, including regular full-court presses and double-teaming of Edey, flummoxed Purdue’s elaborately designed offense, which runs more than 250 plays.

“A lot of times they would have one dude guarding from behind and one dude basically sitting in my lap,” Edey, the likely national player of the year, said after the game, frustrated. He finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, a…

Read More: Fairleigh Dickinson, Barely in the N.C.A.A. Tournament, Topples Purdue in a 2023-03-18 05:37:11

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