By John Wawrow
BUFFALO, N.Y.: Dayton is re-configuring the college basketball map in Ohio.
It no longer runs through Columbus after Vee Sanford’s layup with 3.8 seconds left secured 11th-seeded Dayton’s 60-59 victory over sixth-seeded Ohio State in the second round of the of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
“I guess they called us the little brother, or whatever,” Flyers guard Jordan Sibert said. “We can’t be called that anymore.”
Sibert has seen it from both sides after transferring to Dayton following two seasons at Ohio State.
“To be able to go out there and play with this group of guys, to be able to come up with this win, it’s unbelievable,” Sibert said.
Leave it to another transfer, Sanford, to secure the victory in a back-and-forth game that featured 15 lead changes between two schools separated by some 75 miles.
After Ohio State’s Aaron Craft made a reverse layup with 15.5 seconds remaining, the Flyers set up a play during a timeout with 10.8 seconds left.
Dayton inbounded the ball and worked it to Sanford on the right wing. Driving the lane without hesitation, he got a step on Craft and laid in a shot from about four feet away.
“No, I wasn’t nervous,” said Sanford, who transferred to Dayton from Georgetown. “We’ve drawn up a play like that, and I messed it up previously. But [coach Archie Miller] just kept his trust in me, and I’m just thankful that the shot went in.”
Sanford finished with 10 points, while Dyshawn Pierre led Dayton with 12 points. For Miller, in his third year, the win came against his former mentor, Thad Matta.
The Flyers (24-10), of the Atlantic-10 Conference, who have won 11 of 13, advance to play Syracuse, the South Region’s third seed on Saturday. The Orange routed Western Michigan 77-53 in their second-round game.
It’s one and done for the Big Ten Conference Buckeyes (25-10), who were eliminated in the first game for only the third time in 26 tournament appearances. This season, Ohio State got off to a 15-0 start, and then stumbled down the stretch, splitting its final 20 games.
The loss is the end for three seniors, including Craft, who were part of a team that had advanced past the third round in each of the previous three years.
Craft had a chance to pull out the win.
Driving the length of the court on the Buckeye’s last possession, Craft bulled his way through three defenders only to have his 10-footer hit off the backboard and roll off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Craft remained on his back in disappointment as the Flyers rushed to celebrate at their bench at the other end of the court.
“I just wanted to do everything I could to help our team win, and down the stretch I couldn’t do that today,” Craft said. “I can take the blame for that.”
Sam Thompson led Ohio State with 18 points, and Craft scored 16.
Craft had no time for questions about whether Dayton can stake claim to being the state’s better basketball school for one year at least.
“Sorry, I have zero thoughts on that right now,” he said. “I’m upset at the way we played this game, and the way we didn’t take the opportunity and make the most of it.”
Craft was involved in a questionable play when he draped his arms around Sibert and was called for an intentional foul with 2:35 left. Sibert made both free-throws to put Dayton ahead 55-52, but the Flyers couldn’t score on the ensuing possession. Craft made up for that at the other end, when he was fouled while making a 6-footer, and then completed the three-point play.
Miller was antsy right up to the final buzzer. Having spent two seasons at Ohio State, he was fully aware of Craft’s ability to score clutch baskets.
“I thought it was going in,” Miller said, referring to Craft’s miss at the buzzer. “I’ve watched those guys win that game 1,000 times. He’s a bulldozer with the ball. He got it down there in about three dribbles and got a good look. And it ended up rimming out. And we got lucky today.”