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Cinderella lives in New Jersey! No. 16 FDU stuns No. 1 Purdue at NCAA Tournament: ‘We shocked the world!’

And you thought no one could match that historic NCAA tournament hosted by Saint Peter’s last year? Come on, the Peacocks are so yesterday. Meet New Jersey’s newest Cinderella, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.

For only the second time in NCAA tournament history, a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed in March Madness, when the small, scrappy Knights knocked out the big, brawny Purdue Boilermakers, 63- 58, in an Eastern Region first-round match Friday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

“We shocked the world!” said coach Tobin Anderson, who is in his first season at FDU.


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Anderson, in his post-match speech after a play-in victory, bragged that his team could upset Purdue – “The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” he said. -he declares. “Let’s shock the world!” – leaving critics to laugh at the thought and wonder if he should have said that on camera. But his players supported him.

“I mean, I just trust our guys,” Anderson said. “We believe in what we do. I’ll do a better job with this locker room speech than the previous one. It was the right message, but maybe the wrong audience. I like our guys. They are tough. They are grainy. They play their cue. It’s an incredible victory.

The upset came five years and a day after the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the biggest upset in college basketball history by defeating tournament first seed Virginia.

FDU — which was 4-22 a year ago — wasn’t even in the tournament until the Knights beat Texas Southern, 84-61, in a qualifying game Wednesday night.

Oh wait, there’s more: FDU didn’t even win the Northeastern Conference, earning a shot at the tournament with a loophole because conference champion Merrimack wasn’t eligible for the playoffs

New Jersey has become the Boilermakers’ nemesis: Rutgers have beaten Purdue twice in two seasons when the Boilermakers were the nation’s first team, and Purdue was ousted from the NCAA Tournament last year by Saint Peter’s.

But there’s more mojo in New Jersey: No. 15 Princeton destroyed the supports with a 59-55 win over No. 2 Arizona.

When asked how his father – a coach who spent seven years as his son’s assistant at Hamilton College – would feel if he were still alive, Anderson choked up.

“Don’t make me cry,” he said. “I wish he was here. I wish he could see what’s going on here. I mean, most of your life – Division 3, Division 2 – you’re in front of 100 people, family and friends We’re ahead of 20,000 here, just beat Purdue.

“What a wonderful thing this is. It’s amazing and I couldn’t be happier. This place is going, ‘FDU! FDU!’ It’s just awesome. It’s awesome!

Anderson has spent the past nine seasons as the head coach of Division II St. Thomas Aquinas, where he also underwent a program rebuild. Similar to FDU, it inherited a program that won five contests the previous season. He won 15 games in his freshman year and came away with a 209-62 record, leading the Spartans to seven consecutive NCAA Division II Tournaments.

The fastest Knights pressured the Boilermakers all the way from the opening tip to the final buzzer, forcing 14 turnovers – seven by guard Braden Smith – and scaring Purdue in 18 for 49 shots from the floor, including 4 for 24 on 3 points. In the final minutes, the Frozen Boilermakers seemed afraid to fire.

Purdue’s best offense came on raises from 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who scored 21 points but only managed one shot in the final 10 minutes.

FDU – the smallest team in the tournament – was led by forward Sean Moore, who had 19 points – including a 3-point dagger with 1:04 remaining that gave the Knights a 61-56 lead. It capped a streak in which Moore had scored nine straight points for FDU.

“Man, I felt amazing because I really didn’t think we were going to be here at this point in the season,” Moore said. “It’s great to have that ‘W’ and show people that we can be here if people don’t think we belong here. We’re just showing people what we can do in this tournament with the big dogs. Let’s move on to the next “W”, man.

The Knights next play Sunday against the Memphis winner against FAU.

“We just made history, boys… college basketball history, for this whole school,” Anderson told his team in the locker room at the party. “We are playing damn well now. Stay hydrated, do whatever you’re doing, the ride isn’t over yet. We can do more.

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Joey Chandler can be contacted at [email protected]


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