By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, N.Y. — University of Dayton coach Archie Miller isn’t one to hide from the truth.
After Dayton’s recent loss to St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 quarter-finals, Miller accepted full blame.
“Like I told the guys afterwards, Miller said last Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “I have to do a better job for them, 15, 16 seconds to go, I have to set them up a little bit better. We have to get a better shot. We have to get a two‑point basket on that. I’ll kick myself on that one.”
The third-year coach didn’t have to kick himself too long. He got an opportunity to correct the wrong when Dayton’s Flyers trailed the Ohio State Buckeyes by one with 11 seconds in Thursday’s second round NCAA Tournament game at the First Niagara Center.
“Yeah, you know, the Saint Joe’s game, I’ve been thinking about that all the way through,” Miller said after UD’s 60-59 win over Ohio State. “We took out all the confusion this time.”
Trailing 59-58 Miller put the ball in the hands of Vee Sanford and let his redshirt senior decide the game.
“He was able to get the ball up at the top. Once we got it up at the top, we spaced and just kind of ran up and got out of the way just to see if we could create any kind of confusion up on the top.”
With two-time Big 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Craft ball-hawking, Sanford went to his right and got in the lane where he finished off the glass.
“I think Aaron may have took his head off the ball for just a quick second, and Vee, if he can get on the side of you, can get to the rim. If he’d have made it, missed it, the guys did a good job. But I just wanted to make sure we got a shot at the basket.”
For Sanford it was just his fourth make on a day when he missed seven shots and committed four turnovers.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Sanford said. “I just thank God and thank Coach for trusting me. We’ve probably drawn up a play like that and I messed it up previously, but he just kept his trust in me, and I’m just thankful that the shot went in…he (Miller) wanted me to go right and kind of just open up the floor. He knows that’s my strength. If I had opportunity to get to the basket, you know, I have a high percentage of hitting the shot. So it was a well-drawn up play, and I’m just thankful that I was able to execute it.”
That Miller put his faith in Sanford comes as no surprise to Flyer fans. But the instance is another in a season where Sanford has represented sacrifice for the good of the team.
After starting all 31 games in which appeared during 2012-13, Sanford has learned to accept a role coming off the bench for Miller and the Flyers in 2013-14. Sanford averaged 29 minutes and 12.3 points a game last season. The Lexington, KY native opened this year in the starting five but has come off the bench since the third game of UD’s season.
He responded to a different role scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting in Dayton’s victory over St. Francis (Brooklyn). He followed with 15 points and three assists in UD’s win at Georgia Tech. He accounted for 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in the triumph over California.
Sanford has averaged 9.9 points in 21.9 minutes a game this season.
“It goes above me, us as a family and as a team,” Sanford said. “It’s all about how hard we worked and how we’ve bounced back through our hard times. So it goes on above me.”
Sanford transferred to Dayton after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Georgetown.
Dayton trailed by two with 11 seconds to go in the A10 quarters. Devin Oliver’s three-point attempt from the top caromed off the iron. St. Joseph’s won 70-67.
Dayton advances to play No. 3 seed Syracuse in third round action Saturday.