Purdue not 'defined' by loss to 16th seed in NCAA tournament

INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue remembers the dangers of having first place.

Last year, the top-seeded Boilermakers suffered a stunning upset against Fairleigh Dickinson, becoming just the second men's team to lose to a No. 16 seed since the NCAA Tournament expanded. That loss has taken a back seat to the team's success this year, including a Big Ten regular-season championship.

On Friday, Purdue (29-4) will have a chance to completely overcome that loss when it faces No. 16 Grambling at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Center Zach Edey, the defending national player of the year, said the Boilermakers want to change the way the team is perceived with a win against the Tigers.

“I think a lot of people on this team have that game in mind, and that's not who we are,” Edey said Thursday. “That's not what defines us. I think a lot of people on the team want to show that that's not the truth.”

Last March, Purdue became the first team to lose a 1-16 matchup in the tournament since UMBC's historic victory over Virginia in 2018.

Grambling (20-14), the SWAC champion, overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Montana State in overtime, 88-81, in a First Four matchup on Thursday.

If the Tigers can defeat Purdue, Grambling will become the first historically black university to win a Round of 16 game since Norfolk State beat Missouri in 2012. Grambling coach Donte' Jackson said the team reached Indianapolis around 2 a.m. Friday. and I started watching movies around 4 am

Jackson called Purdue's loss to Fairleigh Dickinson “old news” and noted the difference between the two long-shot programs. But that doesn't mean Jackson isn't taking note of how Purdue lost that game.

“I'm going to separate that film from left to right and try to figure it out,” Jackson said. “And I'll try to distinguish films from other, I guess, smaller universities that Purdue will screen at.”

On the other side of the matchup, Purdue sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer noted that Grambling likes to create turnovers and get into the paint.

“There's nothing we're overlooking,” Loyer said. “We're not looking at anything beyond Grambling. Not thinking about who we'd play next.”

Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said his team has been “sitting” for the last year. The coach, who is in his 20th season overall and 19th with Purdue, said the Boilermakers have improved since that loss and are a more skilled team.

And from a competitive point of view, I couldn't ask for anything more to be in a position to rectify what happened in 2023.

“This is what you want,” Painter said. “You want to get back to where you are. It's hard to get back to the position we were in. But we've been able to do it and now we're excited to play.”

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