Dyshawn Pierre led No. 11 seed Dayton with 14 points and Tyler Ennis missed a pair of go-ahead jumpers in the final 20 seconds as the Flyers upset No. 3 Syracuse in the Round of 32, 55-53.
The win sends the Flyers to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years. They’ll play the winner of tomorrow afternoon’s game between No. 2 Kansas and No. 10 Stanford.
“Every time you advance it feels a little better,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller told TBS after the game. In the opening round, he beat his former boss, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. “If you’re going to beat Syracuse in here you need a little bit of luck, and fortunately the last one didn’t go in.”
The Flyers are now the lone representative of the Atlantic 10, a conference that had six teams dance, remaining in the tournament.
The win may be bittersweet for Dayton fans, however. Regardless of what happens the rest of this tournament, Miller may not be in Dayton all that much longer. His coaching pedigree is as good as any young coach in the country, and he’s the younger brother of Arizona head coach Sean Miller, and he’s now taken the Flyers from a team that was expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the A-10 to the second weekend of the Big Dance.
That’s impressive enough to get a phone call from Marquette, Wake Forest, Boston College or one of the other high major jobs that opened up this month. At the very least, Miller just earned himself a hefty raise.
The first 25 minutes of this game were about as difficult to watch as NCAA tournament basketball gets, as Dayton couldn’t figure out Syracuse’s defense and Syracuse, frankly, couldn’t figure out their own offense. The Flyers began to get better ball movement, and thus better shots, against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone midway through the second half, right around the same time that Ennis finally figured out that he was going to have to start being people off the dribble if the Orange were going to score.
What was confusing, however, was the fact that Ennis opted not to try and drive on the final two possessions. He was not only getting into the paint at will late in the second half, he was starting to get the kind of friendly whistle that you expect superstars to get. And while he’ll likely be criticized for missing those jumpers, it’s important to remember that the Orange would not have been in a position to win the game had it not been for Ennis.
It was a microcosm of the Syracuse season.
For the last three months, the Orange had made an unfortunate habit out of playing down to their opponent, struggling to shoot from the perimeter and relying on Ennis to bail them out down the stretch.
Ennis just ran out of big buckets.