December 21, 2014

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Dayton steps out of Ohio State’s shadow with upset victory in NCAA Tournament

Dayton teammates embrace Vee Sanford, center, after they defeated Ohio State in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Dayton teammates embrace Vee Sanford, center, after they defeated Ohio State in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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.

After Ohio State’s Aaron Craft hit a reverse layup with 15.5 seconds left, 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 4 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, Saturday. The Orange routed Western Michigan 77-53 in their second-round game.

It’s one and done for the Big Ten Conference’s Buckeyes (25-10), who were eliminated in the first game for only the third time in 26 tournament appearances.

The loss marked 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 was involved in a questionable play when he draped his arms around Sibert and was called for a flagrant foul with 2:35 left. Sibert hit both free throws to put Dayton up 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 hitting a 6-footer, and then completed the 3-point play.

The Flyers have shown a flare for dramatics this season.

Sanford’s basket marked the third time the Flyers have won a game on a shot in the final four seconds.

Sibert hit a 3-pointer with one second left in an 81-80 win over IPFW on Nov. 9. Then there was Devin Oliver’s buzzer-beater in an 83-80 overtime win at Ole Miss on Jan. 4.

“A lot of people were going to make a big case out of beating Thad, or beating Ohio State,” Miller said. “We didn’t get real complicated. It wasn’t about Ohio State or where they’re from, or blah, blah, blah. It was about us.”