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Syracuse hardly breaks a sweat, opens NCAA Tournament with 77-53 victory over Western Michigan

By John Vogl

Jerami Grant gave the Syracuse fans what they wanted to see. He also helped give them a reason to beat the traffic.

Grant’s poster-worthy dunk over Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington drew a thunderous mix of applause and astonished gasps this afternoon and was easily the highlight of Syracuse’s effortless 77-53 victory in First Niagara Center.




When Grant made his way to the bench for a breather midway through the second half, many in the orange-clad crowd of 19,260 gave him a nice ovation and headed toward the exits with the game easily in hand, 61-35.

Grant finished with 16 points as Syracuse improved to 28-5. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney paced all scorers with 18 points, including four three-pointers. Orange backcourt mate Tyler Ennis added 16 points and six assists.

Western Michigan shot just 34.7 percent and was outrebounded, 41-25, in ending its season 23-10.

The Syracuse fans will be back Saturday when the No. 3 Orange meet 11th-seeded Dayton in the third round of the South Region.

Two big runs in the first half made the difference.

Syracuse backers stand and rhythmically clap until the first bucket by their squad, and they had a little bit of a wait. Grant made it worth it with a big dunk with 1:18 gone. It was just the start as the Orange opened the game with a 17-4 run.

Western Michigan gained its footing midway through the first half, pulling within eight points at 19-11. Unfazed, Syracuse responded with a 14-2 spurt to put no doubt who would advance to meet Dayton, which upset Ohio State, 60-59.

Ennis closed the run with back-to-back buckets, including a three-pointer, to make it 33-13 with 2:53 left. Syracuse had its highest-scoring first half since December and headed to the dressing room with a 40-21 lead.

The Orange scored 13 points off 11 first-half turnovers by the Broncos.

On balanced Dayton team, No. 4 scorer was go-to guy to shoot winner

By Mark Gaughan

University of Dayton coach Archie Miller had no doubt who was getting the shot when he called time out with 10 seconds left in his game against Ohio State today.

Miller inbounded to quick guard Vee Sanford. He's the team's sixth man, and he's the fourth-leading scorer. But Dayton is balanced. Sanford aveaged 9.9 points a game this season. The leading scorer, Jordan Sibert, averaged 12.5 points.

Sanford drove from the top of the key down the right side of the lane and sank a 7-foot bank shot with 4 seconds left to give Dayton a 60-59 victory.  

Miller described the play: "He’s the guy that can get the shot up. He’s been in that situation a lot for us. Most people who’ve watched us play have seen him come down that right lane line probably 20 times this season and bank that banker right off the glass. I was worried about him getting bottled up. We wanted to get him a lane where he could get downhill. Vee was able with his first step to get the first dribble by him. That was a big key in the play. Vee’s made that shot a lot. He’s terrific inside 15, 16 feet at making those type of shots. We had a lot of confidence in him. He’s the one guy who we can call his number and he can get it."

Said Sanford: "He wanted me to go right, that’s my strength. And if I had an opportunity to get to the basket, I have a high percentage of hitting the shot. So it was a well drawn-up play."

Syracuse vs. Western Michigan: First-half analysis

By John Vogl

Syracuse, seeded third in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament, is supposed to have an easy time today with No. 14 Western Michigan. So far, it is.

The Orange entered halftime this afternoon with a 40-21 lead over the Broncos in First Niagara Center. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney paced all scorers in the first half with 12 points. Orange backcourt mate Tyler Ennis added 11.

Syracuse opened with 17 of the game’s first 21 points to earn round after round of applause from the orange-clad fans. Jerami Grant opened the game with a dunk, and Tyler Ennis hit a three-pointer with 7:54 gone to make it 17-4.

The Broncos simply couldn’t get in the saddle, as their passes were sloppy and shots off-target. Western Michigan shot just 2 of 7 through the opening eight minutes, including 0 for 3 on three-pointers, to fall into the 13-point hole.

A 7-2 run temporarily eased the pain, but Syracuse’ defense remained a head-scratching challenge for the Broncos. They had nine turnovers through 13 minutes, and they resulted in 10 points for the Orange.

The winner will play Saturday against No. 11 Dayton, which earned a 60-59 upset of seventh-seeded Ohio State.

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.

Dayton knocks off Ohio State, 60-59, on bank shot with 4 seconds left

By Mark Gaughan

Senior guard Vee Sanford hit a running bank shot with 4 seconds left to give Dayton a 60-59 victory over Ohio State in the opening second round game of the NCAA Tournament at First Niagara Center.

Dayton found just enough scoring against the vaunted Ohio State defense to post a mild upset.

Dayton, seeded 11th in the East Region and the sixth-place finisher in the Atlantic 10 Conference, looked every bit the equal of the fifth-seeded Buckeyes throughout the game.

The Flyers advanced to a meeting on Saturday against either Syracuse or Western Michigan.

Dayton (24-10) got balanced scoring effort, led by sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierce, who had 12 points.

Ohio State guard Aaron Croft missed a running 12-foot bank shot at the buzzer.

Ohio State, ranked No. 22 in the nation and the fifth-place finisher in the Big 10, finished 25-10.



Live blog: 3-Syracuse vs. 14-Western Michigan

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.

Live blog: 6-Ohio State vs. 11-Dayton

Videos: Syracuse fans predominate in NCAA crowd

Syracuse alumni set up shop at the Pan American Grill before and after the game.

Syracuse fan Bill Allen sports partly Orange hair for today's game.

Syracuse tailgate party.

Buffalo pod a Big East reunion

By Jay Skurski

It's been a reunion of sorts this week inside the First Niagara Center.

Connecticut, Villanova and Syracuse were battling as Big East rivals just a season ago, but they've all found new homes this year in the ever-changing realignment of college conferences. They are all here in the Buffalo pod for second- and third-round NCAA Tournament games.

"It's very cool," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose Wildcats are the only team left in the Big East. UConn defected to the newly formed American Athletic Conference, while Syracuse joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Wright said he and his wife spent part of Tuesday night reminiscing in the hotel lobby with old friends, discussing the recent ESPN documentary, "Requiem for the Big East."

Huskies second-year coach Kevin Ollie said Wright and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim have been valuable resources for him.

"I've got so much respect for those guys. It was just great to see them and just always be around them," Ollie said. "They've been through so much. They always have an ear to lend when I need something on the road."

Boeheim, though, wasn't as warm and fuzzy about the Orange's exit from the conference.

"If the Bit East was exactly what it was years ago, then I wouldn't have wanted to leave, and it would have been a bad thing. But we didn't leave that. We left a league that was moving all over," he said. "You didn't know who was going to be where. It just wasn't the same."

That was especially true last week, when the new-look Big East Tournament was held at Madison Square Garden.

"The one thing I missed is the Big East Tournament -- the rivalry between us and different schools," Orange senior Baye Moussa Keita said. "Now you have to make new rivalries starting this year."

In addition to Syracuse and UConn, marquee teams like Louisville (AAC), Pitt (ACC), Notre Dame (ACC), Cincinnati (AAC), Rutgers (AAC) and South Florida (AAC) defected from the Big East. In their place are Creighton, Xavier and Butler.

"I don't have that nostalgia, because the league wasn't there," Boeheim said. "I mean, the Big East had changed so many times over the years, and it was just not the same."

Should Connecticut and Villanova win on Thursday, they'd play Saturday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 -- at MSG.

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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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]