COLUMBUS, Ohio — Zach Edey got his numbers. But in the end, they were empty digits against a swarming FDU defense that keyed the 16th-seeded Knights stunning 63-58 upset of No. 1 seed Purdue Friday night in an East Region NCAA Tournament stunner.
Edey, Purdue’s 7-foot-4 All-American center, was the focus of everyone’s attention, especially because FDU has the shortest team in Division I basketball this season.
Every time Edey got the ball, the FDU defense collapsed two and three players around him.
He finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but didn’t attempt a shot in the final nine minutes of the game.
The player who was on Edey the most was 6-6 forward Ansley Almonor.
Almonor led the Knights in scoring with 23 points in their First Four victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday night in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, when he went 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
He scored just one point on 0-for-4 shooting Friday, but it was the finest one-point performance of his life.
“[Edey] is very big, but I felt like I would be able to handle him a little bit,’’ Almonor told The Post. “I definitely felt like I was frustrating him. I know big people don’t like people on their legs, and I got into his legs. He was short on some of his hook shots and I could tell he was getting frustrated.’’
For FDU coach Tobin Anderson, his defense perfectly followed his blueprint.
“We talked about it before the game — in their wins and their losses, [Edey] is averaging the same amount of points — it’s like 24 on their wins and 23 on their losses,’’ Anderson said. “If you look at wins and losses it’s the other guys around him, in their losses, those guys don’t play well. In their wins, those guys play well.
“He got 21 tonight, so he still scored some points, but we made him uncomfortable and did a great job on everything else. That was the idea. He’s going to score some points. He’s going to make some shots. We’re going to make him guard, make him run.
“But then they got tired.’’
Almonor got help from Sean Moore and Cameron Tweedy, both 6-4.
“I don’t think he ever felt terribly comfortable, and that was just a great team effort,’’ Anderson said.
“Just the way they played, they limited my touches in the post,’’ Edey said. “I saw a lot of times they would have one dude guarding from behind and one dude basically sitting in my lap. They were full fronting the entire game. Made it very hard to get catches. It makes it very hard to catch and get into a flow and rhythm.
“Credit to them, they had a great game plan coming in, and they executed it very well.’’
Purdue played right into FDU’s strategy and got too dependent on 3-point shots, which they failed to knock down, going just 5-for-26.
“When teams decide to go out and do that defensively [on Edey], you’ve got to step up and knock down a shot,’’ Purdue guard Fletcher Loyer said. “Obviously five of 26 isn’t what we expected. It’s not what we’ve worked for. It’s not a product of the work we’ve put in. But when they crash in the paint so hard and don’t let us throw it in or over the top, my eyes open wide up ready to knock down a shot. We just didn’t knock down shots.’’