COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Johnell Davis scored 29 points, Alijah Martin added 14 and Florida Atlantic ended Fairleigh Dickinson’s magical March by outlasting the No. 16 seed 78-70 on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament.
The ninth-seeded Owls (33-3) needed everything they had to put away the Knights (21-16), who stunned top-seeded Purdue on Friday night in just the second 16-over-1 upset i n men’s tournament history.
It will be FAU, not FDU, which will play Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“My team just believed in me,” said Davis, a junior from Gary, Indiana. “It’s just a dream come true.”
The Knights couldn’t come up with an encore after eliminating Purdue, but not before putting up a fight to the finish. After the final horn, coach Tobin Anderson and FDU’s players walked across the floor to thank their fans, most of whom never expected to spend five days in Ohio watching their team make history.
Demetre Roberts scored 20 points and Sean Moore had 14 for FDU, which didn’t even win the Northeast Conference tournament before becoming an NCAA team that won’t soon be forgotten.
FAU, which edged Memphis on Friday for the school’s first NCAA tourney win, finally took control late in the second half of a game that was played at high speeds and at times looked more like a playground pickup game.
Davis made 10 of 16 shots. He also had 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals.
FDU was still within 67-64 when Davis fought for a rebound and made a putback. After Roberts missed a long 3, FAU’s Bryan Greenlee knocked down a 3-pointer and the Owls pushed their lead to 10.
The Knights managed to get within 76-70, and still had a chance when Greenlee missed two free throws. But Roberts, FDU’s lightning-quick 5-foot-8 guard, misfired on a layup, and the graduate student who followed Anderson to FDU from a Division II school began to untuck his jersey knowing his tournament was over.
Anderson, who turned around a program that went 4-22 a year ago, told his players not to foul and let the final seconds run off. But FAU’s Martin tried and missed a 360-degree dunk, leading to an awkward exchange and tense postgame handshake between Anderson and Owls coach Dusty May.
“I apologized to him for that but also reminded him we’re the adults,” May said. “We’ve got to fix that behavior. It’s part of the game. I apologized to him.”
FDU came up short in its bid to become the first No. 16 to win twice in the tournament. The same thing happened to UMBC five years ago, when it shocked defending champion Virginia and then lost to Kansas State in the second round.