The Dayton Flyers are living a charmed existence these days.
In their South regional opening round game against Ohio State last Thursday, their hopes rested on a missed shot by guard Aaron Craft in the final seconds. And in their 55-53 win against No. 3-seed Syracuse on Saturday, the Orange’s freshman star, guard Tyler Ennis, launched a shot from beyond the three-point line at the top of the key – which he’s hit countless times in the past – only to have it clank off the rim as time expired.
The 11th seeded Dayton has now won its two games by a combined three points.
The Flyers’ coach Archie Miller, brother of University of Arizona coach Sean Miller, has now gotten Dayton into the “Sweet Sixteen” for the first time since 1984. After Saturday’s win, the Dayton campus was in full cheering mode, with even the university’s president, Dr. Dan Curran, getting in to the action – "crowd surfing” to cheers of “Dan! Dan! Dan!.”
Syracuse did themselves no favors by missing all 10 of their three-point shots, while Dayton hit seven of their own, effectively circumventing the Orange’s typically stingy 2-3 zone. Dayton’s defense stuck like glue to the Orange, and prevented them from hitting a single three-pointer for the first time in 665 games. On the other hand, Dayton’s Jordan Sibert hit three from beyond the arc, while his fellow guard Khari Price hit two threes.
Dayton now faces the No. 10-seed Stanford Cardinal at 7:15 on Thursday night on CBS in the Memphis Fed Ex Forum.
In punching their “Sweet Sixteen” ticket, Stanford yesterday afternoon defeated a Kansas Jayhawk team that was missing its outstanding Freshman Camaroonian center, Joel Embiid. The Cardinal, who won, 60-57, used a 2-3 zone defense for much of the game that frustrated Kansas’ outside shooters, particularly guard Andrew Wiggins, who was 1-8 from the floor, with no three-pointers (4 points). In fact, Kansas was 0-9 in three-point shots for the afternoon. The Jayhawks managed to get only two players into double figures, while four of Stanford’s five starters notched 10 or more points.
In the Midwest Region’s third round game, despite 31 points from star forward Cleanthony Early and 20 from former walk-on player Ron Baker, the Wichita State Shockers lost their first game since last year’s final four to a dogged and relentless Kentucky squad, 78-76. Kentucky had a balanced scoring attack, with its five starters combining for 68 points – led by Andrew Harrison’s 20.
The region’s No. 1 seed, Wichita State started the second half with a seven-point lead, but the 8th seeded Wildcats gradually whittled away and took the lead four minutes into the period, 41-40. But for the remainder of the contest, it was largely a ping-pong game of scoring, with teams trading three-pointers as the period waned. In fact, the two teams hit a combined 18 shots from behind the arc. Afterward, Kentucky’s coach John Calipari referred to it as an “elite eight” game – that, by all rights, the winner should have gone on to the NCAA Final Four. .
But Wichita State was in it right until the end. With 3.2 seconds left on the clock, Shockers coach Greg Marshall drew up a play that would have his three-point specialist Fred Van Vleet attempt a three-pointer from beyond the top of the key. And likely everyone in St. Louis’ Scottrade Center was holding their breath as the ball arced – falling harmlessly away on the right side of the rim. And with the win, Kentucky moves on to face in-state rival Louisville on Friday night at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
In another upset, the sixth-seeded Baylor Bears humbled the No. 3-seed Creighton Blue Jays, 85-55 in third round West Region action Sunday in San Antonio. Baylor shut down Creighton star Doug McDermott, limiting him to 15 points (his season average is 27), with only three in the first half. Baylor also combined speed, strength and a devastating defense to run circles around the ordinarily high-powered Blue Jays offense, scoring virtually at will.
And, in a later game at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, third-seeded Iowa State survived a late-game surge by the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to win with a shot off the glass by the Cyclones’ DeAndre Kane with just over three seconds remaining. Bafflingly, the UNC players did not follow head coach Roy Williams’ instructions in calling a timeout after the shot was made; but instead, ran the ball up the court, giving the Tar Heels virtually no time for a shot attempt. Iowa State now moves on to the “Sweet Sixteen” against the University of Connecticut Huskies next Friday night in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.