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Jay Wright's first NCAA trip to Buffalo: 'We got hammered after the game'

 

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Jay Wright, coach from Villanova, says he loves Buffalo. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)


By Tim Graham

Hey, Buffalo. Meet your new favorite college basketball coach.

He's Jay Wright from Villanova, and he loves your town.

Wright this afternoon reminisced about his first time in Buffalo, where his 14th-seeded Hofstra squad faced third-seeded Oklahoma State in the 2000 NCAA tournament.

"We got hammered," Wright said. "We were happy to be here. We got hammered, and we got hammered after the game.

"We were so happy to be here."

Hofstra returned to the NCAA tournament again in 2001, helping Wright get the Villanova job that spring.

Villanova has gone to the tourney nine of the past 10 years, but Buffalo will always hold a special place in Wright's heart.

"My wife and I were riding over on the bus yesterday, and it was the exact same snowy, lake-effect day," Wright said. "It was St. Patrick's Day. We got hammered in this building by Oklahoma State. ... I heard Doug Gottlieb talking on TV yesterday about somebody's shooting. He couldn't make a foul shot in that game.

"We had Speedy Claxton at Hofstra. He was a great guard. They were big and physical. They had a two guard [Norm Richardson] who went to the NBA. He came off a ball screen early and ran over to me at the bench and his finger was [dislocated]. I was, like, 'Oh, we're dead now.' They re-set it, but they hammered us.

"I think Bobby Knight played his last game with Indiana here, too, that same night. It was amazing."

Ennis reunites with CIA Bounce alum Pierre

By Rodney McKissic

It will be a reunion of sorts for Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis and Dayton sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre, who were teammates with the Canadian-based AAU program CIA Bounce.

Both are coming off strong performances in their second round matchups on Thursday. In his first NCAA Tournament game, Ennis helped the Orange easily dispatch Western Michigan, 77-53, with 16 points and six assists.

In the Flyers 60-59 upset over Ohio State, Dayton trailed 57-55 when Pierre was fouled on a three-point attempt with 26 seconds left and calmly canned all three free throws. That proved to be the difference after each team exchanged baskets, including Vee Stanford’s winner.

“Dyshawn is one of those players where you have to watch him a couple of games to really appreciate how good he is,” Ennis said. “I’ve watched him go up against nearly everybody in that class and really go at them. He’s really an underrated player and one of their keys.”

Ennis played one summer with Pierre on Bounce, the program run by Tony McIntyre, Ennis’ father. He starred at Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute in Whitby, Ont., where he registered over 3,500 points and nearly 1,800 rebounds.

“At first you look at him and his game is a little awkward but as you keep watching him you can see his mid-range game and finishing around the basket,” Ennis said. “Offensively, he has the full package but he does a great job.”

Ennis spoke with Pierre briefly today about Bounce alums still the NCAAs and making noise throughout college basketball. That includes Ennis’ brother, Dylan, from Villanova, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Iowa State’s and Melvin Ejim and Naz Long.

“It will be a great day for Canada basketball to have two players on this level contributing and going at each other,” Ennis said. “It’s a big step for us to have this many players and having so many contributors not only playing on these teams but contributing throughout the country.”

While Dayton has been winning its close games, Syracuse has struggled

By Tim Graham

Sometimes, a team needs to learn how to win the close ones.

The Dayton Flyers have done that this season. In games decided by a single-digit margin, the Flyers have won six of their past seven, including Thursday's heart-stopping 60-59 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in First Niagara Center.

The Flyers likely need to keep it close if they want to score another upset. They'll play the Syracuse Orange downtown at 7:10 p.m. Saturday.

"You know, it's funny," Dayton forward Devin Oliver said this afternoon. "Last year, we lost about eight or nine games ... by, like, a total of 10 points or something crazy like that.

"So we went through it last year. We just happened to come out on the losing end of it."

Dayton was in six games decided by one or two points last season and lost all of them, once in overtime.

This season, Dayton went 2-2 in games decided by one point or two points, 1-1 in overtime (both games by three points) and 10-7 in games decided by single digits.

But the Flyers have been clutch since February. In the span of seven games -- all against Atlantic 10 opponents -- they won five by seven points or fewer. Their only single-digit loss in over two months was to the St. Joe's Hawks in the conference championship game.

Dayton guard Vee Sanford banked in a runner from 5 feet away with 3.8 seconds left to beat Ohio State on Thursday.

"It was a very big shot personally, but I'm kind of just getting that out of the way," Sanford said. "I want to focus on tomorrow. That's the main thing.

"It was a good win, but now it's Syracuse we've got to focus on."

Syracuse went 12-4 this season in games decided by a single-digit margin, but it lost four of its past five, a turbulent stretch that dates back to Feb. 19.

Syracuse defense is no laughing matter for Dayton

By Tim Graham

A reporter asked Dayton basketball coach Archie Miller what kind of challenge Syracuse poses.

"Ha!" Miller blurted out.

Syracuse is a perennial power. It was ranked No. 1 in the country just a month ago. Jim Boeheim won his 948th game Thursday in First Niagara Center.

Dayton, meanwhile, is trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984 after upsetting Ohio State. To do so, it must stun Syracuse here Saturday.

Miller looks like he could be Boeheim's paperboy. But he did deliver more than a visceral laugh when considering Syracuse.

"When people look at Syracuse they will start talking about the zone," Miller said of Syracuse's 2-3 defensive scheme. "But their concepts revolve around talent and speed and length.

"On both ends of the floor they take advantage of all spots."

Syracuse opponents averaged 59.3 points a game. Opponents made 41 percent of their shots this season. Syracuse averaged four more rebounds and nearly four more steals per game.

Syracuse easily beat Western Michigan, 77-53, on Thursday. Western Michigan shot 34.7 percent from the field. Syracuse had a 41-25 edge in rebounds and blocked six shots.

Dayton advanced despite a sloppy offense because Ohio State happened to be sloppier.

"We're going to have to be very sharp on offense," Miller said. "Obviously, going against something we haven't seen before is going to feel funny, but I think if we just stick with it and play our game ...

"The ball's got to move. We have to move and move quick. That's going to be a big part of the game. If it's a half-court game for us or we're standing around, it's not going to work well."

Ohio State star Aaron Craft's career comes to an unfitting conclusion

By Tim Graham

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."

Ohio State coach Thad Matta was asked what Craft could've done differently.

"Honestly, me telling him how to play defense would be like me telling somebody how to build a rocket ship," Matta said. "I'll live and die with that kid any day of the year with what he's going to do defensively."

Craft's decorated career is over. He set the Big Ten record for steals and holds Ohio State's assists record. He became the first in school history to record 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals. A pre-med student, he was Academic All-American of the year as a junior. He went 9-4 in NCAA tournament games.

"We wouldn't have been in this position had he not been doing the things that he had done to get us here," Matta said. "You look at his career, in my mind, in the 10 years I've been at Ohio State, he's going down as one of the all-time reatest players to ever put on the scarlet and gray."

Dayton 60, Ohio State 59: How the game was won

By Tim Graham

What it means: The 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers have a chance to reach the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984. The sixth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes are one-and-done for the first time in six years.

Moment of the game: Dayton guard Vee Sanford drove into the paint and banked in a layup with 3.8 seconds left for the victory.

Player of the game: Dyshawn Pierre led Dayton with 12 points and collected a game-high eight rebounds. With 26.3 seconds to play, he was fouled by Shannon Scott while attempting a three-pointer. Pierre converted all three of his free throws to give Dayton a 58-57 lead.

Stat of the game: Dayton didn't score over a span of nearly five minutes in the second half, allowing Ohio State to go on a 10-0 run and take a 45-43 lead.

Streaks and runs: The Buckeyes won their first 15 games this season and then went 10-9 the rest of the way. The Flyers have won 11 of their past 12 and went 11-7 against teams in the RPI 100.

Foreshadowing of the day: About 2:30 into the game, Dayton trailed, 5-0. Ohio State looked every bit the favorite. Dayton guard Jordan Sibert, a transfer from Ohio State two years ago, made a three-pointer in front of his former team's bench and shot a look at his old mates to let them know it wasn't going to be an easy afternoon.

Coming up: Dayton will play the winner of this afternoon's Syracuse-Western Michigan game Saturday in First Niagara Center.

Ohio State vs. Dayton: First-half analysis

By Tim Graham

The Ohio State Buckeyes weren't merely going to show up this afternoon and advance to the field of 32.

The sixth-seeded Buckeyes have won at least three NCAA tournament games each of the past three seasons, but the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers are proving that little is automatic in March.

Dayton leads the intrastate powerhouse, 33-30, at halftime in the First Niagara Center.

Dayton center Matt Kavanaugh and Ohio State guard Aaron Craft are the leading scorers so far with nine points apiece. Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre and Ohio State center Amir Williams each has six rebounds.

The Buckeyes are shooting only 44 percent, while the Flyers are at 50 percent with a slightly better performance in turnovers and identical rebunding numbers.

Ohio State breezed to a 5-0 lead, but Dayton found its legs and pulled ahead 4:22 into the first half.

Dayton guard Jordan Sibert, a transfer from Ohio State two years ago, got his team on the scoreboard with a three-pointer in front of the Ohio State bench and briefly stared at his former teammates.

Soon after, Devin Oliver added a spirited dunk to tie the score and then a three-pointer off a pass from Sibert for a 10-7 Dayton lead.

Dayton was ahead for over seven minutes until Craft made a couple free throws to give Ohio State a 22-21 edge 8:15 before halftime.

The margin has stayed close since, with multiple lead changes in the final three minutes. Dayton lurched ahead by five points 83 seconds before halftime.

Big 4 Hoops Scenarios

By Bob DiCesare

Here's where the Big 4 basketball teams stand as of 6 p.m. Saturday:

MAC

Men

UB has clinched at least a tie for the East Division title and it becomes an outright championship if Bowling Green beats Akron tonight. More importantly, the Bulls have clinched a top-four finish within the MAC overall and have earned a bye into no less than the quarterfinals in Cleveland. They can finish top 2 by winning their final two games regardless what happens in tonight's Toledo-WMU game. The Bulls are at Akron Tuesday and home to Bowling Green next Saturday.

Women

UB (9-7) has the tiebreaker advantage over Toledo (8-7) as they battle for the No. 4 seed and bye into the quarterfinals. WMU (8-8) lurks. UB has Akron (18-8, 12-3) and Kent (6-20, 3-12) at home. Toledo plays Central Michigan (18-9, 14-1) Sunday and finishes with Eastern Michigan and Ball State. If UB wins out it's in the quarters. If Toledo loses to CMU the Bulls can take probably still take the No. 4 seed with a 1-1 finish. That presumes CMU beating WMU, never a sure thing in a rivalry game.

MAAC

Men

Canisius finishes with the No. 2 seed if it wins at Manhattan Sunday AND Quinnipiac loses to Marist. The Griffs get the No. 3 seed if they beat the Jaspers AND Quinnipiac beats Marist. A loss gives Canisius the No. 4 seed  and a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Siena on Friday in Springfield.

Niagara will be the No. 11 seed and face the No. 6 (either Rider, Saint Peter's or Marist) at 9 p.m. Thursday in Springfield.

Women

Canisius and Niagara are 8-11 and tied for the No. 6 seed heading into Sunday's finales. Canisius is home to fifth-pace Rider (9-10) and Niagara is home to Fairfield (14-5). If Canisius and Niagara both win there will be a three-way tie for seeds 5-7. Canisius would be 3-1 among the trio, Niagara 2-2 and Rider 1-3. If Canisius wins and Niagara loses the Griffs take the No. 5 seed based on a sweep of Rider and Niagara becomes either the No. 7 or 8 seed depending on the tiebreaker with Manhattan (8-12). If Canisius and Niagara both lose it's a three-way tie for Nos. 6-8 among Canisius, Niagara and Manhattan with Manhattan being 3-1 in the group, Niagara 2-2 and the Griffs 1-3.

ATLANTIC 10

Men

Bona is 6-9 and No. 8 in the conference and can go no higher. They can drop no lower than No. 10. La Salle (5-8) and Duquesne (4-10) also factor in. Bona finishes at VCU. La Salle was playing Fordham Saturday and still has games with George Mason and Saint Joseph's. Duquesne has UMass and George Mason.

Women

The Bonnies are done with the regular season and will be the No. 2 seed behind Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They'll play the winner of the 7-10 game in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday in Richmond.

UB-Bona Game Wrap

UB 78, St. Bonaventure 73

How UB Won: The Bulls came upon the key to Bona's defensive vault down the stretch. Threes by Josh Freelove, Will Regan, Shannon Evans and Jarryn Skeete turned a 66-60 deficit into a 72-69 lead that held. The Bulls went 6 of 11 from behind the arc in the second half while Bona was 1 of 10 for the game.

Turning Point: Beside the barrage of threes? Bona led by two when senior 2 guard Matthew Wright suffered a leg injury with 14:50 left. He did not return. The Bonnies could have used him in a big way.

UB Player of the Game: Freshman guard Shannon Evans has made huge strides since his college debut about a month ago. He went for a career-high 17 points, came up with two of UB's five steals and turned it over just twice in 24 minutes.

Bona Player of the Game: Point guard Charlon Kloof is a warrior. He led the Bonnies in points (17), assists (five) and played a game-high 37 minutes. Kloof had a lot on his shoulders with Wright and Jordan Gathers out of the lineup.

Stat Check: Bona went just 24 of 38 from the foul line. As coach Mark Schmidt noted, that doesn't cut it, especially on the road. UB was 28 of 32.

Eye Opener: UB's Javon McCrea had just three field goals but his soaring left-handed jam off an Evans miss was flat-out scary.

Rarity: This was UB's second win in the eight meetings between the teams and its first at Alumni Arena. The Bulls hadn't beaten the Bonnies since 1996.

Sreaking: That's four straight wins for UB.

Records: UB improved to 4-2. Bona slipped to 6-3.

In the House: Nice crowd of 4,652. Be interesting to see how all these Saturday afternoon games work out as the season progresses.

Next Up: UB plays Canisius at 8 p.m. (ish) Wednesday in the First Niagara Center in the nightcap of a doubleheader that begins with Niagara-Davidson at 6. The Bonnies open a three-game road swing Saturday at Iona.

-- Bob DiCesare

Ortega, Dixon and Wilson will not return to St. Bonaventure

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

St. Bonaventure's leading scorer will not return for her senior season. Doris Ortega along with guards CeCe Dixon and Tatiana Wilson were dismissed from the Bona women's basketball team.

"Obviously we wish them well," Bona coach Jim Crowley said. "It just didn't work here."

Crowley said all three have been granted their release and play at any school they wish. He also added about the departure, "I wouldn't say it was mutual."

Ortega started 27 games for the Bonnies last year, averaging 12.1 points. Dixon played in 24 games, missing five after being suspended for what was called an "internal team issue." The Bonnies seemed to be fighting through internal issues and chemistry problems at times last season. Combine that with a young team and several injuries and the program that went to the Sweet 16 in 2012 finished up 2013 with a 10-19 overall record and a 3-11 Atlantic 10 mark.

Wilson, who would have been a junior at Bona, averaged 9.1 minutes and saw action in 26 games.

Ortega and Dixon had been key components of the Bonnies run in 2012 as sophomores but seemed to stumble as juniors with the ability to take their game and leadership to the next level.

With their departures, Bona now returns just eight players -- two seniors and six sophomores -- with two freshman on the roster for next season.

Among those returning are seniors Ashly Zahn and Chelsea Bowker, who sat out last year as a medical redshirt with an ankle injury.

Among the sophomores returning are Katie Healy (Lancaster), Nyla Rueter and Emily Michael, all of whom saw significant playing time as freshmen.

Crowley said the team has responded very well to the loss of their teammates.

"From the time it happened, they have focused on moving forward," Crowley said. "We've gotten some great work ethic and leadership from people. They've had a solid spring and summer. We lost talent. Over the last two years we've lost a lot of it, but we have good talent here. We're getting used to each other, to playing together and for each other. Each day we're a day closer."

 

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | rmckissic@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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