COLUMBUS, Ohio – They carry on, fearless.
The coach and his two tiny fifth-year senior guards – all three a year away from Division II – and the five returning players who were part of a 4-22 team a year ago.
So what if the opponent, Purdue, has won 29 of 34 games, is the Big Ten champion and favored by 25 points in Friday’s NCAA Tournament first round game at 6:50 p.m.?
Fairleigh Dickinson, who is thoroughly enjoying her March Madness ride, doesn’t care at all.
A video of FDU’s post-game celebration after Wednesday night’s top four win over Texas Southern in which FDU coach Tobin Anderson pumped up his players is proof of the Knights’ moxie.
“I want Purdue to see this,” Anderson tells his players. “I walked into breakfast this morning and what did you tell me, Kam [Murrell, one of his assistant coaches]? “The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.” Let’s shock the world.”
Heavy underdogs playing with house money can be dangerous barnyard dogs.
Purdue found out the hard way at last year’s NCAA Tournament when he was eliminated by No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16.
So, about the video.
“Yeah, I probably didn’t want this to come out,” Anderson said with a wry smile Thursday. “But…I want our guys to believe. Part of success is that we have to believe we have a chance of winning. It’s kind of our way of thinking. We believe we have a chance to win.
“Look, they’re the big dogs in this fight,” Anderson said of Purdue. “They are the Big Ten champions, they won the Big Ten by four games, one of the best teams in the country. They will come after us. We must resist this. We have to take hits and keep hitting and keep fighting. We have to be fiery, brave, tough, which we have been.
When asked if poking the bear with this video was risky, Anderson said: ‘I don’t think Purdue needs any extra motivation from the perspective that they lost last year to Saint Peter’s in the NCAA Tournament. They are trying to win a national championship. I probably gave them some there. But it will cheer us up a bit. We will be more nervous because of it. I said to the guys, ‘I’m sorry, guys. We will have to save it. ”
FDU’s seasoned backcourt tandem of Demetre Roberts and Grant Singleton, the 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9 guards, respectively, who Anderson brought with him from St. Thomas Aquinas College, have no trouble supporting their coach.
They’ve been doing it for five years now.
Anderson, Roberts and Singleton are now 14-5 together in postseason play, spanning four NCAA Division II tournaments and winning the top four on Wednesday night.
“Grant and Demetre know how to win in big situations,” Anderson said. “I don’t tell them much before the game. When I look into Demetre’s eyes and see them glaze over, I feel pretty good about what’s going to happen. He looks around and thinks he should be there. That’s how he is. It’s no surprise to him.
“When you’re a 5-8 guard who’s been told your whole life you’re not big enough, from Mount Vernon, New York, growing up like that, you see guys go to Division I, and you don’t think “Ain’t Demetre Roberts a Division I mid-major guard? He’s a terrific guard. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
He wouldn’t trade Singleton either.
It’s a package.
“Demetre is the alpha dog,” Anderson said. “Demetre is the thermostat. It regulates the temperature. When Demetre plays well, it brings Grant up. Grant sort of feeds on Demetre. They make themselves better. Demetre scored 2,000 points. Grant scored 1,500 varsity points. That’s 3,500 varsity points combined in all the games they’ve played together.
“How many backcourts at the college level have that experience in terms of play, success in terms of play?”
Anderson will need the best they have to offer on Friday night.
He was so blown away by how perfectly his players executed the game plan on Wednesday night that he joked about how little he had to coach in the game, how he just stayed away.
“We have to take it up a notch [Friday] night,” Anderson sad. “The best game we can play. … I think it’s still there for us, but it’s going to have to be [Friday] night. And I think that’s there for us.