3/17/23 FDU, Braden Smith guards

Freshman guard Braden Smith puts out an arm to protect the ball from an FDU defender. 

No. 1 Purdue exited the NCAA Tournament in the first round at the hands of No. 16 Fairleigh-Dickinson, a school 25 minutes up the road from the No. 15-seed that sent them packing last season.

FDU hung with the Boilermakers (29-5, 15-5 Big Ten) from the jump. The Knights (25-8, 12-6 Northeastern) led for the majority of the first half, although neither team led by more than 6 points all game.

Zach Edey and Mason Gillis provided the only points for the team in the early going of the second half. The rest of the gang eventually contributed their share, but Gillis and Edey ended up with 31 of the Boilers’ 60 second-half points. Fletcher Loyer caught fire later, accounting for all 8 of the Boilers’ final points.

Gillis exchanged the 11th lead (of 14 total) with a successful and-one completion with 12 to play that fully engaged the Boiler fans for the last half of the rocky finish.

The Nationwide Arena crowd looked to be mostly comprised of black and gold supporters, but the annual Irish holiday made for an undiscriminating spattering of green apparel throughout the masses. Purdue’s dissenters made their presence known whenever they could, perhaps at their loudest when Edey’s name was called for starting lineups.

The 7-4 junior missed a right hook to open the game, generating the expected jeers and “air ball” chants from the FDU band he missed the rim in front of. Edey missed his first three field goals of the night but put down a pair of dunks on consecutive offensive trips to things going halfway through the first.

Edey ended the game with a team-high 21 points, and provided the team with 6-straight points and the Boilers’ first trip to the free-throw line. The guards eventually pitched in, hitting field goals and a couple from deep to keep scoring close.

“A couple” was all the Boilers hit in the first half, good for just 2 of 11 from deep. Mason Gillis opened up the second with a 3-ball to take a 1-point lead that lasted about as long as the Boilers’ ability to hit shots from beyond the arc.

Purdue missed its next 7 shots from back there and didn’t connect again until the final 7-minute mark, courtesy of Fletcher Loyer. By that time the Knights held a shaky 1-point lead and Purdue was just awarded the bonus.

The Knights racked up fouls at a quicker rate in the second half, reaching 9 with almost eight minutes to play. Although FDU made the first two trips to the line of the game, the team would only visit it once more. In the meantime, the Boilermakers started hearing the whistle when they shot, resulting in 19 attempts by the end of the night.

Taking care of the ball proved to be an issue for Purdue in both halves. The team combined for 15 total turnovers, splitting them evenly between trips to the locker room. Those in the second proved costlier as they resulted in a few more fast break points and 3-point an-one play.

Offensively, FDU relied on the speed of its guards and extra passes to generate scoring opportunities and free up real estate in the paint. The Boilers switched almost everything on-ball, but was still caught over-helping and got beat off the dribble a few times.

The Knights attempted nearly the same amount of 3’s as Purdue but found a better success rate at 7 for 23 compared to the Boilers' 5 for 25.

None of the FDU guards were particularly hot from deep, but the shots fell when it mattered, and the crowd minority exploded with each 3-point basket.

FDU typically grabs a few more boards than its opponents, whereas Purdue outrebounded its opponents by about 11 all year. Today the Boilers picked up 39 to the Knights’ 33.

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