BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dayton coach Archie Miller almost didn’t want to look.
Syracuse star freshman point guard Tyler Ennis was open at the top of the key with two seconds left and the Flyers holding a two-point lead. When Ennis’ three-point attempt clanged off the rim, Dayton had the victory it had been chasing for three decades.
“We have a good program with great tradition,” Miller said last night after Dayton defeated Syracuse 55-53 in the NCAA tournament to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years. “Now, we have the ability to build, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Ennis had beaten Pittsburgh last month with a 40-foot shot at the buzzer, so he had the confidence to try again, even though Syracuse had missed all nine attempts from behind the arc against the pesky Flyers.
“The last shot was a great shot. It was the right play, a chance to win the game,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “You don’t have enough time to get to the basket. I have no problem with that shot.”
Neither did the 35-year-old Miller, though he probably aged a bit while the ball was in the air.
“When I saw him raise up, I didn’t feel good about it,” Miller said. “But Buffalo has been good to us these last couple of days on the buzzer shots.”
It sure has.
Vee Sanford’s basket with 3.8 seconds left was the margin of victory in a one-point win over Ohio State on Thursday. After that game, the Dayton Daily News mocked Buckeyes fans who refer to “The Ohio State University” with a headline that read: “THE University of Dayton.”
Dayton (25-10), the 11th seed in the South Regional, advances to play No. 2 seed Kansas or 10th-seeded Stanford.
Syracuse (28-6) was in position to pull this one out, but Ennis also missed a foul-line jumper with eight seconds left. The third-seeded Orange struggled all game against the swarming Dayton defense and was outscored 21-0 on three-pointers.
It was the first time in 665 games that Syracuse failed to make a three-pointer.
Dyshawn Pierre scored 14 points for the Flyers, and OSU transfer Jordan Sibert, held scoreless in the first half, hit a key three-pointer with 47.7 seconds left and finished with 10 points.
Syracuse slogged through its worst first half of the year, hounded by Dayton’s man-to-man defense. Dayton went into the locker room leading 20-18.