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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."

WMU's Brown Battles Injury

By Bob DiCesare

Western Michigan guard David Brown, a first-team all-MAC selection, played the second half of a 77-53 loss to Syracuse with a pronounced limp after banging knees late in the first half.

Brown went just 2 of 12 from the field in the game, including 2 of 10 from behind the arc. Without his long-range shooting WMU had no antidote for Syracuse's 2-3 zone.

Brown said he was told "it was terrible where the place I got hit at because that's where all the impact is from you jumping and cutting. Where I got hit at is right where, everything I wanted to do, I couldn't barely do."

Although listed as a senior, Brown could petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility because he underwent two major knee surgeries in his career.

"We feel like both of his redshirt years were due to injury and he was under the number of games that you can be under," said coach Steve Hawkins. "We'd have to petition the NCAA for the sixth year. There is precedent.

"If he has a chance to make some money playing this game, we hae to look at that too," Hawkins said. "Basically it comes down to we owe David. Whatever is in David's best interest is what we have to concentrate on."

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.

Syracuse faced different styles in the ACC

By Rodney McKissic

Before Syracuse entered the ACC, the Orange heard they would have to change its style because their new league was more finesse than physical. Not true according to C.J. Fair.

“I think the physicality of the ACC was underestimated or underrated I should say,” Fair said. “You got some teams that have similar styles like Virginia has a similar style to Pittsburgh. You play against Duke, they’re more up and down. It’s just you get a taste of everything in the ACC, not just one style.”

Bayr Moussa Keita agrees.

“Everybody told us it’s a run and gun type of play, but we play different teams, and they have a different style of play. You play Boston College and they’re going to make you hold the ball and work the defense. If you play Duke, they’re going to go up and down. So I think I underestimated it.”

Hawkins on 'Cuse zone, MAC

By Bob DiCesare

Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins and his team saw a version of the Syracuse zone twice this season, when the Broncos played Mid-American Conference rival Eastern Michigan. The Eagles are coached by former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy and have employed the defense since his arrival.

Here's what Hawkins had to say about the EMU zone vs. the Syracuse zone the Broncos will face Thursday.

"The zone is very similar. You know, we hope it's a help, but the zone is very similar. The players are different. Now, Murph has done a terrific job of bringing in" players "very similar to coach Boeheim. He recruits to that defense, recruits to that zone. They actually at times could be as big as Syracuse.

"The difference with Syracuse is, when Eastern Michigan went to the bench they're bringing in a 6-5 guy. When Syracuse goes to the bench, they bring in a 6-7 guy, then they'll bring in a 6-10 guy, then they'll bring in a guy that's 8-foot tall. It seems like its never-ending. It's just an onslaught of size and length and length and length and more length."

Hawkins also was asked about the perceived lack of respect the MAC was granted in the postseason process. WMU was dealt a 14 seed although the MAC was ranked 12th among conference and Toledo, although in the 30s in RPI, received a No. 6 seed in the NIT.

"I've understood a lower seed in some other years," Hawkins said. "This year, with the conference RPI being 12, I thought that Toledo, in particular, deserved more credit than what they were receiving all year long.

"Their RPI was very high all year long. They played a good nonconference schedule. They ended up winning whatever it was, 26, 27 games, and they were never mentioned in terms of a potential at-large team all the way through the year, and I never really understood that. Then to get the seed they got in the NIT, I was discouraged by that. Happy with the number of teams that got in total postseason play but a little discouraged with the seeding that went on there."

WMU's No. 14 seed was less discouraging.

"We knew we were going to be a little bit lower because of our nonconference RPI," Hawkins said. "This things is all about matchups. You can get a 12 seed or an 11 seed and play against a team that would be a worse matchup for you than some of the team that are getting a 13, 14 15 seed that may be a better matchup for you."

Syracuse gets No. 3 seed; will play Western Michigan here

By Bob DiCesare

Syracuse was dealt a No. 3 seed and assigned to a South Regional pod in Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament pairings announced this evening.

The Orange (27-5) drew a first-round game against Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan (23-9), with the winner facing the survive of a Buckeye State showdown between sixth-seeded Ohio State (25-9) of the Big Ten and 11th-seeded Dayton (23-10) of the Atlantic 10.

The 'Cuse was long pegged for a spot in Buffalo but uncertainty arose after the Orange lost five of its last seven games following a 25-0 start. Syracuse also appeared here in 2010 but was a No. 1 seed that year.

The other Buffalo-based bracket, part of the East Regional pod, pits No. 2 seed Villanova (28-4) against Horizon League Tournament champion Milwaukee (21-13). The Panthers went 7-9 in conference but ran the table in the tournament and will hit town toting a five-game winning streak.

The Villanova-Milwaukee winner faces either UConn (26-8) of the American Athletic Conference or Atlantic 10 Tournament champion Saint Joseph's (24-9). The Hawks ousted St. Bonaventure Saturday in the A-10 semifinals.

The games will be played on Thursday and Saturday at the First Niagara Center with times forthcoming shortly.

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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 |

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 |