Having a son playing for a team in the NCAA Tournament is enough to make any parents proud.
But having two sons playing for teams in the tournament, and then to have them both playing in the same city to start – that’s a little more special.
Just ask the parents of Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and Villanova’s Dylan Ennis.
For Tony McIntyre and Suzette Ennis of Brampton, Ont., they were experiencing that situation on Thursday in First Niagara Center.
“Everything’s good so far,” McIntyre said at halftime of Syracuse’s game against Western Michigan, which the Orange eventually won easily, 77-53. “Guys just look like they have a whole different ... a lot more energy than they’ve had in the past,” he said.
The family, which has four other children, came to Buffalo with a contingent of about 50 or 60 people, including some from the basketball program McIntyre runs back home.
With dad clad in a gray Syracuse hoodie and a mom in a Syracuse T-shirt, the proud parents have had “quite a few” interview requests since the tournament began, McIntyre said.
How does the family handle the necessary wardrobe change between their sons’ games, switching from the orange of Syracuse to the white and blue of the Villanova Wildcats?
That’s part of what McIntyre and Ennis were talking about in their seats at halftime.
“Probably just head back to the hotel, change into Villanova stuff and then probably get a bite to eat and come back,” McIntyre said.
Having both sons play in the same city certainly makes travel easier for the family, but they would have been able to manage if things turned out differently.
In fact, they did it last weekend when Villanova was playing in the Big East Tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden in New York, which is where mom, Suzette, went. McIntyre went to see Tyler play in the ACC Tournament in North Carolina.
If they couldn’t be together in Buffalo, “we would have probably done the exact same thing” as last weekend, “and probably still have to hopefully, if all goes well.”
Trevor Cooney insists his confidence never wavered. The same can’t be said about people who’d watched the Syracuse guard clank shot after shot off the rim during his 10-game slump.
They knew if the Orange had any chance of advancing deep in the NCAA Tournament, Cooney’s shots needed to fall.
They did Thursday. Not surprisingly, the Orange advanced.
Cooney scored a game-high 18 points in Syracuse’s 77-53 victory over Western Michigan. The redshirt sophomore fired at 50 percent from the field (5 of 10) and three-point range (4 of 8) to end a long drought. He was just 28.1 percent overall (27 of 96) and 25 percent from long distance (18 of 72) during the previous 10 games, which featured a 2-5 slump by the Orange entering the tourney.
“My confidence was never down,” Cooney said in First Niagara Center. “I mean, I had some games where the ball didn’t go in for me. I made a lot of threes this year, and I know I can make threes. It was just about coming out and doing it.”
Cooney led Syracuse with 86 three-pointers this season.
Aaron Craft made a reverse layup with 16 seconds left to give Ohio State a lead.
And there was no better candidate for a critical stop on the other end of the First Niagara Center court.
Craft, the two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, guarded Dayton guard Vee Sanford, a slasher who’d made only three of his 10 shots in their NCAA Tournament game.
Sanford dribbled to the right of lane and cut inside. Craft was close enough to feel Sanford’s breath. But the shot went up and banked off the glass with 3.8 seconds on the clock.
Craft desperately dribbled down-court and launched a jump shot that rimmed out. Dayton won, 60-59.
“Defense has kind of been my thing,” Craft said, “and it’s amazing how it’s going to end with a kid getting the game winner on me.”
It wasn’t long ago that Amida Brimah was kicking a soccerball around in his native Ghana. The NCAA Tournament wasn’t even a dot on his radar.
The Connecticut Huskies are sure glad he showed up on theirs.
The 7-foot freshman center, who has been playing basketball for only four years, is a big reason why UConn survived a scare from Saint Joseph’s and escaped with a 89-81 victory in First Niagara Center. With his team down three points in the final minute, Brimah secured an offensive rebound, was fouled on his successful layup and drained the free throw to make it 70-all with 39 seconds remaining.
Brimah, who shot 57.1 percent from the free-throw line this season, made two more in overtime as the seventh-seeded Huskies prevailed.
“Coach was on me the whole game about rebounding, rebounding, I had to get a rebound,” Brimah said. “When I got it, I heard someone call my name, but I realized I was closer to the basket, so I just shot a hook shot.”
But if he’d missed the free throw, Brimah’s effort might have been for naught.
Syracuse and Dayton will meet at 7:10 p.m. Saturday and Villanova and Connecticut will go off about 9:40 p.m., it was announced late Thursday night.
Aaron Besecker, Tim Graham and John Vogl contributed to this report