The NCAA’s magical run of 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson is over

Jake TrotterESPN staff writer3 minutes to read

Columbus, Ohio — Coach Tobin Anderson said he and his players at Fairleigh Dickinson will remember it all.

“Everything. Everyone’s chanting,” FDU. The place is going crazy. Police escort. Leaving the hotel and the band playing,” Anderson said. “I will remember every bit of this forever—and they will, too.”

FDU’s magical NCAA tournament finally ended Sunday night. Florida Atlantic held off a fierce second half from the 16th-ranked Knights to defeat them 78-70 and advance to the Sweet 16 at New York’s Madison Square Garden instead.

“Their physical strength was exceptional,” said Owls coach Dusty May, whose team will face fourth-ranked Tennessee. “We made enough plays to win…but it was easy [for the crowd] To their root, the way they were playing.”

Two days after hitting one of the biggest stunning plays in college basketball history, FDU nearly delivered another.

Throughout the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, FDU used a 12-1 run to take their first lead of the game, the brightest basket coming on 3 from Joe Munden Jr. With 18 minutes to play.

But Florida Atlantic eventually fell behind a prolific effort by guard Jonelle Davis, who scored 29 points. According to ESPN Stats and Information Research, Davis is the only player to finish with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in an NCAA tournament game since steals became an official statistic in 1986. Davis has scored 20 points in the second half.

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Davis said that the Knights “brought out the best in us”.

On Friday, the Knights defeated Purdue 63-58 to become the second of the 16 seeds to defeat a #1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Tournament. Going into Friday, the 16 manufacturers were tied at 1-150 going into the opening round. FDU joined UMBC, who became the first 16 seed to win #1 by defeating Virginia in 2018. Like the Knights, UMBC fell in the Round of 32 to Kansas State that year, 50-43.

Senior guard Demeter Roberts led FDU with 20 points. Roberts was one of three players, along with guard Grant Singleton and forward Sean Moore, that Anderson brought with him from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College after taking over as coach of FDU prior to this season. The Knights introduced five new players this season, including Roberts, Singleton and Moore, who totaled 40 points in the loss.

“We beat a lot,” Roberts, who is 5-foot-8, said of the Knights, who had the shortest team in Division I basketball this season with an average height of 6-foot-1. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

After winning just four games last season, FDU has won two championship games in the past five days alone, including Wednesday’s victory over Texas Southern in Dayton.

Lacking an FDU squad, the University of Dayton team traveled just over an hour to fill in for the Knights. Dayton junior trombonist Cole Juniac said the band learned the FDU fight song 15 minutes before Friday’s tip-off against Purdue. On Sunday, the members of the UD squad brandished the plastic swords they had bought for the tournament while cheering the riders on.

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Moments after the final bell, UD’s band, the FDU fan section, and the hundreds of fans of other teams that supported the Knights over the weekend were still chanting “FDU.” The FDU players then walked over to clap with them and celebrate what they’ve accomplished.

“What we did was incredibly special,” said Anderson. “And that would be something [we’ll have] for the rest of our lives.”

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