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Syracuse's Grant laments slow start in what might be his college finale

By Mark Gaughan

Syracuse forward Jerami Grant got off to a slow start and never got on track in his team's 55-53 loss to the University of Dayton on Saturday night.

If it was the last game of his Syracuse career, the 6-foot-8 sophomore went out with a whimper. There is speculation he will declare for the NBA Draft. Grant managed just four points on 2 of 3 shooting in the third-round NCAA Tournament game at First Niagara Center. He had been averaging 12.3 points this season.

"We just didn't come to play," Grant said. "I can't explain it. We weren't ready. We had a rough start. We're a better team. We weren't prepared like we should have been."

Syracuse managed just four points in the first nine minutes of the game, and trailed, 11-4, at that point. The Orange had five turnovers and three airballs and was 2 of 10 from the field over the first nine minutes.

"We probably should have took the ball to the basket a lot more," Grant said. "It was a tough game. We had an opportunity to win the game and we messed it up. We typically win games like this."

UConn vs. Villanova: First-half analysis

By John Vogl

Connecticut proved during its last game that a 10-point deficit means nothing. The Huskies did it again during the first half tonight.

UConn spotted Villanova a 19-9 lead through 8:27 in First Niagara Center, but the Wildcats couldn’t handle the prosperity. UConn enjoyed a 16-1 run as Villanova’s shooters fired blanks.

The Wildcats finally got back on the board with a free throw and three-pointer in the final 30 seconds, and the teams went to halftime with UConn holding a 25-24 lead.

The seventh-seeded Huskies shot just 34.5 percent in the first half. No. 2 Villanova fired at just 30.4 percent.

Before bottoming out, Villanova, which struck for 46 points in the second half of its opener, picked up where it left off. The Wildcats scored the first seven points and built a 13-5 cushion through the opening 4:15.

There were more commercial breaks than quality plays through the opening 12:06, as the teams struggled to find the basket or each other. Villanova held a 20-13 edge with 7:54 left by virtue of its marginally better shooting percentage (35.3 percent to 26.3 percent).

The Huskies finally found some success through a balanced attack as four of their five starters have at least four points. Ryan Arcidiacono of Villanova leads all scorers with eight points, which includes a 2-for-2 showing from three-point range.

Dayton 55, Syracuse 53: How the game was won

By Tim Graham

How Dayton won: With both teams struggling to make shots, Syracuse was doomed by an inability to convert anything but layups, putbacks and short jumpers. Syracuse missed all 10 three-pointers it attempted. Dayton, meanwhile, made seven three-pointers and held a 35-31 edge in rebounds.

Turning point: Dayton led by one point with 14 seconds to play, when guard Jordan Sibert stepped out of bounds while being pressured by two Syracuse defenders. Syracuse had a chance to take its first lead in over six minutes, but Tyler Ennis pulled up for a short jumper against his coach's wishes -- Jim Boeheim later said he ordered a drive to the basket -- and Syracuse's best opportunity to win evaporated.

Player of the game: Dayton forward Devin Oliver scored only seven points, but he recorded team-highs with 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals without committing a turnover.

Stat of the game: Syracuse failed to make a three-pointer for the first time since March 1995 against Providence.

He said it: "It was definitely going in tonight. It was online, and he was going for the win. ... Lo and behold, he misses. I thought he was going to the basket, but I saw him raise up. I didn't feel good about it. But Buffalo has been good to us these last couple days." -- Dayton coach Archie Miller on watching Ennis miss a three-pointer as time expired. Dayton also survived a failed buzzer-beater Thursday to beat Ohio State.

Up next: Dayton is moving on to Memphis for the Sweet 16 and will play the winner of Sunday's game between second-seeded Kansas and 10th-seeded Stanford.

At the buzzer: Dayton stymies Syracuse, advances to Sweet 16

By Tim Graham

For the longest time, neither team could make a basket.

Then the shots started to fall, yet pulling away was impossible.

Whether missing layups, lofting air balls or finally knocking down shots, the difference between Dayton and Syracuse remained razor thin.

At the buzzer, Dayton had done enough for a rollicking 55-53 NCAA Tournament victory Saturday night in First Niagara Center.

Dayton, an 11th seed, is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984. Syracuse, a third seed that was ranked No. 1 in the country last month, is done.

Dayton guard Jordan Sibert converted a long three-pointer with 49 seconds to go to give his team a 52-47 lead and force Syracuse to foul out of desperation.

Sibert opened the door for Syracuse by stepping out of bounds with 16 seconds to play and Syracuse down by a point, but Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis missed a short jumper.

Dayton's Dyshawn Pierre rebounded and was fouled with seven seconds on the clock. He missed the second free throw, giving Syracuse one more chance.

Ennis' three-pointer rimmed out as time expired.

No player had more than six points in the first half. Dayton shot 35 percent from the floor, while Syracuse shot 30 percent.

Syracuse missed nine straight shots at the end of the first half and the start of the second half.

Syracuse ended the drought by making two straight shots about three minutes into the second half, only the second time it had accomplished the meager feat and its first successful back-to-back attempts since the game was under 10 minutes old.

Then the Orange made three in a row for the first time. But Dayton also heated up, hitting five out of eight shots, including three three-pointers to take a 35-30 lead with about 11:20 to play.

Syracuse went on a 6-0 run to go ahead -- only its second lead of the game -- with 9:24 remaining on a Michael Gbinije layup. The Orange had made five straight shots and nine of 12 since they missed nine in a row.

The game remained a slugfest from there. They traded misses and makes seemingly on every possession.

Live blog: 2-Villanova vs. 7-Connecticut

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.”

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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


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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