COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was the moment the Fairleigh Dickinson players knew they were about to make history.
The author of that moment was Sean Moore, a 6-foot-4 junior forward who grew up a Columbus, Ohio, native a few miles away from Nationwide Arena, where he helped make history on Friday night in the game of his life.
Moore, from the top of the key, launched a 3-point shot that gave 16th-seed FDU a five-point lead over No. 1 seed Purdue with 1:03 remaining in the game.
It was the arrow that felled the Boilermakers.
After the ball left Moore’s hands, he posed like a statue for what felt like minutes, his right-hand follow-through frozen in the air as his teammates went ballistic around him.
Up in the stands, his mother, Shanika Tyler, said to herself (and anyone else who would listen), “That’s my son!’’
“I was just so flabbergasted, so amazed … I was speechless,’’ Tyler told The Post on Saturday, recounting the moment. “We said a prayer prior to the game together and I said, ‘Son, you better step out onto that floor fearless.’ I told him to ‘own the court, because the worst thing that can happen is you go home.’
“No one really saw this coming, but we didn’t doubt him for one minute.’’
Chavis Wilson, who’s like a second father to Moore and is the father of Moore’s 14-year-old brother, had no doubts when he watched the ball leave his hands en route to the most clutch shot in FDU history.
“When he hit that shot, I started having flashbacks to all the training and shooting, the 2,000 shots a day in the summertime, all the games, all the tournaments, all the heartache,’’ Wilson told The Post on Saturday. “I was just proud he took the big shot. He used to shy away from the big shot. I told him before the game, ‘This is your city.’
“Even coach [Tobin] Anderson’s wife [Jodi], before they boarded the buses, told him, ‘Sean, you always play good in front of your family. We need you to do it one more time.’
“When he shot that shot, I knew it was going in. It was just meant to be.’’
Moore, on Saturday, described what he and FDU did on Friday as “life-changing.’’
“That whole game has changed everybody on our team — staff, students, everybody who goes to Fairleigh Dickinson University,’’ he said. “Everything is different now.’’
Everything is different because of that shot, that moment.
“I missed that shot a couple times in the second half, so I wasn’t going to let that make me stop shooting that shot,’’ Moore told The Post. “I felt like it was going in and when it went in … I had to hold the pose. It was just the momentum and the energy. I just felt like I had to let the energy out with the way I was feeling.’’
Wilson said he communicates with Moore during the game by giving him certain looks.
“Like two shots before that one, he hesitated a little bit,’’ Wilson said. “When they went down by five points late in the game, I looked at him and gave him that wink to tell him, ‘You got to do you now.’ He took it to the next level.’’
Demetre Roberts, FDU’s fifth-year senior and team leader, called Moore’s shot “a game-changer,’’ adding: “That was a dagger right there. I’m so proud of him. He played his ass off. Because of him, we get to move on.’’
With 13 seconds remaining in the game and FDU clinging to a three-point lead, it was Moore who blocked a shot by Purdue’s Braden Smith to help seal the victory.
Moore entered the game averaging 6.7 points per game and had scored in double figures just eight times in the previous 34 games this season. Yet he led the Knights with a career-high 19 points, had five rebounds and two blocked shots in the biggest game of his life.
He did this in his hometown, in front of his mom and dad and his people.
“You can’t make it up,’’ Tyler said. “Honestly, when they say ‘Cinderella story,’ I feel like this was God-ordained. I remember when he was 3 years old and he said, ‘Mom, I just want to be a basketball player. I want to be tall.’
“I would always say, ‘Pray about it,’ because I’m short and his dad is short, so the fact that he’s [6-4], we feel like it was a blessing from God, ordained to be his life.’’
FDU’s three keys to victory
A look at what 16th-seeded FDU (21-15) needs to do to upset ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic (32-3) on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
FDU played as close to a perfect game Friday night against No. 1 seed Purdue, because the players knew it was going to take that. The challenge Sunday will be maintaining the same elite intensity coming off the greatest win in school history.
“It’s hard to top what we did last night,’’ FDU guard Grant Singleton said. “But we are just trying to keep a level head, stay humble about the situation. We have more things to do. We want to keep dancing.’’
FAU doesn’t have the massive height advantage over FDU that Purdue did, but its players are as aggressive on the glass as FDU’s.
FAU had 18 offensive rebounds in its won over Memphis on Friday night and is plus-six for the season in rebounding margin (FDU is plus-0.5).
Defend the perimeter
FDU focused so much of its defensive energy collapsing on Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey that they let Purdue’s outside shooters shoot.
The Boilermakers went 5-of-26 from long distance and weren’t able to hurt FDU on the perimeter. FAU makes nearly 10 3-pointers per game and shoots 37 percent from long distance. And it holds opponents to 31 percent.
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