Dayton comes up big at the end
Eleventh-seeded Flyers bounce Ohio State, face third-seeded Syracuse on Saturday
Dayton got just enough offense when it needed it Thursday. Ohio State didn’t. That has been the story of both teams’ seasons, and it decided an exciting “mini-upset,” as the 11th-seeded Flyers defeated the sixth-seeded Buckeyes, 60-59.
Vee Sanford’s running, 5-foot bank shot with 3.8 seconds remaining was the difference in a game that Dayton arguably deserved to win.
The Flyers protected the ball well against Ohio State’s vaunted defense, did a better job scoring in transition and played their physical, Big 10 Conference opponent to a draw on the backboards.
Dayton still needed a great play by its sixth man at the end.
Sanford, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, was only the fourth-leading scorer on the Dayton team this year, averaging 9.9 points a game. But he was the clear choice to take the last shot when coach Archie Miller called timeout with 11 seconds left.
Dayton spread the floor after Sanford took the inbounds pass at the top of the key, and Sanford drove to his right against Ohio State guard Aaron Craft, the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
“Most people who’ve watched us play have seen him come down that right lane line probably 20 times this season and bank that banker right off the glass,” Miller said. “I was worried about him getting bottled up. We wanted to get him a lane where he could get downhill. Vee was able with his first step to get the first dribble by him. That was a big key in the play. … He’s terrific inside 15, 16 feet at making those type of shots.”
Sanford, who finished with 10 points, had made only 3 of 10 shots to that point in the game.
“I thank coach for trusting me,” Sanford said. “He wanted me to go right, that’s my strength. And if I had an opportunity to get to the basket, I have a high percentage of hitting the shot. So it was a well drawn-up play.”
The Buckeyes’ Craft missed a sprinting, 12-foot runner at the buzzer.
Dayton (24-10) advanced to a meeting on Saturday against third-seeded Syracuse.
Ohio State had been heavily reliant all season on its defense, which ranked fourth in the nation in efficiency. The Buckeyes held foes to a Big 10-best 59 points a game and forced 14.5 turnovers a game.
Dayton, the sixth-place finisher in the Atlantic 10 Conference, was mostly unflustered. The Flyers made 13 turnovers and forced 14. Dayton shot 45 percent from the field. Ohio State was holding foes to 40 percent shooting.
“I thought we handled it great,” Miller said. “You watch so many games where they dismantle you off a dead ball free throw. They make a lot of plays when they go small. We were very composed. For the most part, our turnovers were self-inflicted. … I thought our press offense was organized. In half court we were able to move the ball to where we wanted.”
Dayton also beat Ohio State down court, especially in the first half. The Flyers scored 13 points off the fast break, to just six for Ohio State.
“That was probably the difference in the game, the start of the game and our ability to get back,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, referring to his team’s inability to get back on defense quickly enough. “It was such a key. We thought we could do a great job with their half-court offense, and unfortunately we gave those up.”
Ohio State’s defense had a small margin for error because its offense was so limited. Ohio State cracked 75 points only twice in its last 19 games. The Buckeyes (25-10) ranked seventh in the Big 10 in scoring and eighth in three-point field-goal percentage.
“We needed to finish better,” said Matta. “We were getting the ball in there and there was a lot of contact. We kept telling our guys you’ve got to finish the play through the contact. We didn’t do a good enough job.”
Dayton won for the 11th time in the last 13 games. The Flyers got 12 points from forward Dyshawn Pierre and 11 from forward Devin Oliver. Pierre made three straight free throws with 26 seconds left after being fouled on a three-point shot. That put Dayton up, 58-57. Craft scored on a drive with 15 seconds left to put Ohio State back up.
The Buckeyes got 18 points from junior forward Sam Thompson and 16 from Craft.