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Dayton vs. Syracuse: First-half analysis

By Tim Graham

In the 1980s, the Chicago White Sox's slogan was "Winning Ugly."

The Dayton Flyers seem to like that style, too.

For the second time in three days, the pesky, 11th-seeded Flyers are giving a pedigreed opponent problems. They lead the Syracuse Orange, 20-18, at halftime of their NCAA Tournament game in First Niagara Center.

No player has more than six points. Dayton is shooting 35 percent from the floor, while Syracuse is at 30 percent. Dayton has committed seven turnovers to Syracuse's six.

And Dayton led almost the entire half.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was steaming when screamed for a timeout 8:28 into the game. Dayton was up, 11-4, after Vee Sanford made a jump shot in transition.

Syracuse didn't let the game get out of hand, thanks in part to some point-blank misses and careless turnovers from Dayton. Syracuse had multiple chances to take its first lead and finally did on a pair of Fair free throws with 2:48 left.

Streaky Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney, one of the stars from Thursday's victory over Western Michigan, has been cold tonight. Two of this three-point attempts weren't in the same zip code. Cooney has two points.

Dayton has demonstrated its depth already, using 11 players in the first half. Syracuse has used seven, with its five starters playing at least 16 minutes apiece.

Matchup features Dayton's balance versus Syracuse's choice nucleus

By Tim Graham

Few college basketball teams are more balanced than the Dayton Flyers.

The Flyers are 23-3 when three or more players score in double figures, just 1-7 when they don't. But their leading scorer, Jordan Sibert, averages only 12.4 points a game.

Their next NCAA Tournament opponent, the Syracuse Orange, have three players who average at least as many points as Sibert does. A fourth Orange player is one-tenth of a point behind.

"They have their style. We have our style," said Syracuse forward C.J. Fair, who averages a team-high 16.6 points. "They rotate a lot of guys in and out frequently.

"For us, we play our starters the majority of the game. But it's been effective that way.  So I don't see no problem with it."

Thursday at First Niagara Center, the Flyers played the Ohio State Buckeyes to the final buzzer and had nine players with at least 13 minutes. Only two other Flyers got into the game.

"Our depth has been basically a quest to keep our team together," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "The camaraderie we have is a big deal. Why we've gotten to this point is because our guys like one another. They're together. They're tough."

Orange coach Jim Boeheim cleared his bench in a blowout victory over the Western Michigan Broncos. Thirteen players got into the game. Even so, nine Orange players went at least 13 minutes.

"I think that doesn't make a difference because we're just going to go ahead and play our game," Syracuse center Baye Moussa Keita said. "It doesn't matter if they play nine, 10, guys and we play seven or six. I think everyone is going to play their game, play the hardest we can."

Live blog: 3-Syracuse vs. 11-Dayton

Dayton and Syracuse got a sneak peek of each other in Hawaii

By Tim Graham

The Dayton Flyers came one putback away from playing the Syracuse Orange already this season.

Both participated in the Maui Invitational, the annual November mini-tournament. Dayton would've advanced to the title game with a victory over Baylor.

Dayton hadn't trailed since it was down 1-0 and led by 10 in the second half. But Baylor followed its own miss and scored with 16 seconds left to win, 67-66. Syracuse beat Baylor, 74-67, in the final.

What did Dayton glean from Syracuse to help them scout for tonight's NCAA Tournament game in First Niagara Center?

"We didn't spend a ton of time watching them, just the eye test because the Maui games are back-to-back," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "Saw them really one time because we played Cal and they did, as well.

"Obviously, the size and the length and the zone can consume you if you let it. I think offensively they have a lot of guys individually they can isolate on you, really talented. But it's a typical Syracuse team. They're very good, and they're very big. You're going to have to be organized. They thrive on the steals. They thrive on the defense creating offense.

"Down the other end, they really have some game changers in terms of [Trevor] Cooney and [C.J.] Fair, and they're really good off the glass at times as well with [Jerami] Grant. We have our work cut out for us."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was impressed by watching Miller coach in Maui.

"You can't scout people anymore, but we watched him over there because of the tournament," Boeheim said. "I'm just impressed with how hard his team plays, how they play together. Just a really, really well‑coached team. He's done a tremendous job coaching that team."

Jenkins' big win over the 'Freshman 15' has been a hit for Villanova

By John Vogl

The “Freshman 15” wouldn’t have worked for Kris Jenkins. The forward arrived at Villanova weighing about 295 pounds, so the fabled weight gain during the first year of college would have put him over 300. There’s no way a 6-foot-6 shooter can compete at the top NCAA level at that weight.

So while his fellow freshmen put on pounds, Jenkins lost them.

“Forty pounds,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “He’s lost 40 pounds. He worked so hard.

“He hasn’t grown at all since he stepped on campus. He shrunk since he stepped on campus.”

It’s been noticed.

“He made great improvements from the summertime until now with dropping weight and getting his body to where it needs to be to compete at this level,” Villanova guard Darrun Hilliard said. “He’s just been all in and didn’t really complain about doing anything we asked him to, that coach has asked him to. It’s showing right now.”

Jenkins scored 11 points during Villanova’s victory over Milwaukee. He went 3 for 4 from three-point range for a team that shot only 4 for 22. He’ll need to keep it up and his teammates will need to catch up tonight against Connecticut in First Niagara Center.

“He’s going to keep improving,” Hilliard said, “and he’s going to be a great player in this program.”

Staying in school allowed UConn's Napier to grow from wild child to respected leader

By John Vogl

Shabazz Napier leads Connecticut in every way possible, both on and off the court. Kevin Ollie would be lying if he said he saw that coming.

“I ain’t going to lie,” the coach said. “There was a couple days that I was like, ‘No, it ain’t ever going to happen.’”

Napier was a rebel when he arrived as a freshman in 2010-11. Kemba Walker was the big man on campus then. Though Walker led the Huskies to the national championship, he still had to battle the new guard on the team.

“When I first started working him out, he was telling Kemba what to do,” said Ollie, who was an assistant coach then. “I was like, ‘What’s this little freshman telling Kemba where to shoot at?’ He was seeing how he was leading, but he still had a little rebellion in him a little bit, wanted to do it his own way.

“But he understood you’re not going to change UConn. UConn is going to change you. He started to conform to that, and now you see him grow into a great, amazing leader. You see everybody following him.”

Napier may have an NBA future ahead of him, but he’s a rarity in that he could go pro while staying in school for four years. The college life allowed him to grow from the wild kid to the mature Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. He'll try to become a Sweet 16 player tonight when UConn faces Villanova in First Niagara Center.

“At the end of the day, you get to play the game you love for so many years, and that’s it,” the 22-year-old said. “My mother always told me, ‘One thing no one can take from you is your education.’ I took that to heart.

“I feel as a four-year player you learn a lot, a lot of things that you may not get the chance to learn on the next level. You may not develop as much as you need to develop. A lot of kids struggle with understanding that.

“I just feel like basketball-wise there’s always room for improvement. Outside of basketball, you get a free scholarship to this university. You’ve got to take advantage of that.”

Atlantic Hockey Championship: Preview

by Amy Moritz

For the second-straight year Canisius finds itself in the Atlantic Hockey Championship game and this season they did it in dramatic, dare we say epic, fashion. Here's what you need to know for tonight's final against Robert Morris.

Game time: 7:05 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

Tickets: Blue Cross Arena Box Office. Adults $16; Children (6-12) $6.75; Students $12.

About Robert Morris: The Colonials advanced to their first title game with a 5-4 overtime win over Niagara. They are speedy with offensive skill (particularly Cody Wydo) but the X-Factor has been freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk. Sophomore starter Terry Shafer left in the middle of the Colonials'' first-round Game 3 against Army. (The guess is an injury although Robert Morris hasn't said much about it.) Izyk came in and has been fantastic, going 4-0-0 in the playoffs. He has giving up just six goals over 141 shots with a 1.55 goals against average and a .957 save percentage. Note that four of those six goals came against Niagara on Friday night.

Regular season series: Robert Morris won the two games in Pittsburgh while Canisius won the game at Buffalo State. On Nov. 8, the Colonials took a 6-1 win over the Griffs in Pittsburgh. The teams then split a home-and-home in late February. Robert Morris won 4-1 and Canisius won 6-3.

Overtime with the Griffs: With their 5-4 double-overtime win against Mercyhurst in the semifinals, the Griffs have played three overtime games in this playoff run including a pair of double-overtime games. Last night's semifinal of 93 minutes, 30 seconds was the longest in Canisius program history.

Capobinaco with the save: Senior Tony Capobianco made 58 saves for the Griffs setting a playoff record for most saves in a playoff game. He withstood a Mercyhurst attack which threw 16 shots at him in the first overtime.

Ralph Cuddemi vs. Mercyhurst: With two goals against the Lakers last night, Cuddemi has scored four goals against Mercyhurst in two playoff games. What is it about playing the Lakers? "I guess I must not like the color green or something like that," the sophomore forward said. "I mean I wish I could play them every night but that’s not the way it works."

Highlights from the Griffs' semifinal win:

Live blog at 7 p.m.: Canisius vs. Robert Morris Atlantic Hockey championship

Season ends in semis for Niagara

by Amy Moritz

ROCHESTER -- For the third straight year, Niagara advanced to the Atlantic Hockey Final Four in Rochester.

For the third straight year, the Purple Eagles are headed home after the semifinals.

Niagara rallied late in the third period to force overtime but dropped a 5-4 decision to Robert Morris Friday at Blue Cross Arena.

Robert Morris had taken a 4-2 lead but a shot went off Patrick Divjak’s skate with 3:03 left in regulation then 47 seconds later Hugo Turcotte scored his second of the game.

The teams traded chances in overtime until Scott Jacklin put the puck past Jackson Teichroeb at 14:56 to give Robert Morris the win.

The loss ends Niagara’s season with a 15-20-5 season.

“The adversity was stacked up against us but our motto was you have to let your desire be stronger than any excuses you can have,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “I thought that won out for us for the most part. … Hindsight it’s a big deal to get here. As much as I hate saying goodbye to the seniors, they’ve left the program in a better spot than when they came in. There’s a lot of young kids who gained experience and that will make us better next year."

Robert Morris will meet Canisius in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday in Blue Cross Arena.

Live blog: Atlantic Hockey semifinals Niagara vs. Robert Morris, 7:30 p.m.

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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 |