By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY – Vee Sanford capped a see-saw battle as the No. 11 seed University of Dayton Flyers outlasted the No. 6 seed Ohio State Buckeyes, 60-59 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament’s South Region.
Sanford drove right from the top of key on Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Craft and used the glass to score the winning bucket with five seconds remaining.
“Mainly, he (Dayton coach Archie Miller) wanted me to go right and kind of just open up the floor,” Sanford said. “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.”
Sanford’s shot ended a game which saw 15 lead changes and eight ties including seven lead changes in the final 4:52.
“This is the fourth game winner hit on me in my time here,” Craft commented. “I can’t change it. Obviously, you want it to end differently, but these guys (Ohio State underclassmen) still have time. The best thing that we can do is just move forward. Got to give Dayton a lot of credit. Obviously, he made a big shot down the stretch. They made the last punch, and we couldn’t.”
“Good teams are going to go on runs,” Sanford said. “The main thing is just to hold our composure and be able to handle it. So I felt like we did that pretty well.”
Ohio State had one last opportunity, and a Craft runner in traffic kicked off the back iron as the horn sounded.
“I thought it was going in,” Archie Miller stated. “I’ve seen those a bunch since I’ve been at Dayton, but more importantly, I’ve watched Ohio State, in particular. I’ve watched those guys win that game a thousand times. He’s a bulldozer with the ball. He got it down there in about three dribbles, and he got a good look. It just ended up rimming out, and we got lucky.”
Dayton endured a 10-0 OSU midway through the second half.
Sam Thompson netted eight as the Buckeyes grabbed their first advantage of the second half. The junior forward drove baseline in traffic for a basket. He followed with a dunk in the open floor after a sloppy sequence which saw the Flyers turn the ball over twice in less than 25 seconds.
“He’s a really talented guy,” Miller said of Thompson. “He was bouncy around the basket. He got a couple there. You know, I think some loose ball plays, nothing that was really designed.”
Thompson cut the lead to two with another dunk, and LaQuinton Ross knotted the score at 43 with an acrobatic finish in the lane. Thompson gave Ohio State the edge with a tap in of a Craft 3-point attempt.
The teams traded buckets and the lead for the remainder of the game. Craft was called for a flagrant 1 foul on another Sibert full-court rush. Sibert hit both free throws to give UD a 55-52 advantage with 2:35 on the clock.
Thompson hit a jumper as OSU regained the lead at 57-55 with 57 seconds remaining.
Thompson finished with a game-high 18 on 8 of 11 shooting.
“This is a game that we had an opportunity to win, the Chicago, Ill. native said. “We had a chance to extend our season, extend the seniors’ careers, and we didn’t do it. So it was tough.”
Shannon Scott fouled Dyshawn Pierre on a three-point attempt with 27 to go. Despite connecting on less than 70 percent of his free throw attempts during the year, Dayton’s sophomore forward connected on all three chances.
“I was trying to stay calm, stay focused, and I knew we had to make those free throws for the team,” Pierre said. “Luckily, I did.”
Craft gave the Buckeyes one last lead at 59-58 with a scoop shot in the lane.
“At the end of the day, we knew that, if we stayed together, that we’d be there at the end of the game,” Pierre said. “Luckily, with Vee’s tough shot, we were able to pull it out.”
Pierre led Dayton with 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Dayton outscored Ohio State 10-3 to start the second half and take its largest lead of the game.
Khari Price came off a ball screen late in the shot clock for a layup. Devin Oliver scored in traffic. Sanford and Kendall Pollard converted a two on one break with Sanford finishing a layup. Pollard drove from the wing and used a pump fake in the air to score and give UD a 43-35 lead with 13:37 on the clock.
It was the fifth game in Ohio State’s last seven which came down to the final possession. OSU lost four of those games.
“You look at this, the last five games we’ve played, literally, I’ve listened for the horn to go off to see if we win or lose,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta explained. “That’s something we had talked about coming in. The last five games come down to like the last shot. And coming into this game, we had talked about extending leads and that sort of thing. We weren’t able to get over that hump in terms of what we needed to do. That was the difference.”
Craft added 16 points for the Buckeyes. Ross had 10.
Sanford scored 10 and Oliver chipped in 11 for Dayton.
Ohio State outscored Dayton in the paint (38-34) and off turnovers (16-14).
Nine Flyers played 13 or more minutes as the UD bench outscored their counterparts 17-9. UD also posted a 13-6 advantage on the fast break.
Both teams had 28 rebounds.
UD hit 13 of 17 free throws.
Ohio State connected on 8 0f 12 attempts from the charity stripe.
The win was Dayton’s first in the NCAA Tournament since beating West Virginia 68-60 in 2009.
The last time Dayton reached the Sweet Sixteen was 1984 when the Flyers lost to Georgetown 61-49 in the regional final.
Dayton will take on the No. 3 seed Syracuse Orange on Saturday.