Tyler Ennis missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, and No. 11 Dayton survived No. 3-seed Syracuse 55-53 in the South Regional on Saturday. The victory sends the Flyers to their first Sweet 16 after two straight upsets in the NCAA tournament.
After Ennis missed an earlier jumper that would have given the Orange the lead with 11 seconds to play, Syracuse fouled Dyshawn Pierre who stepped to the free-throw line with a chance to put the Flyers ahead by three. He knocked down the first shot but missed the second, and Syracuse -- with no timeouts -- streaked down the court as Ennis advanced the ball and hoisted a trey. Dayton's Vee Sanford rebounded the miss just before the clock struck zero.
The Flyers' victory capped a wild second half after a slow-moving first half. Dayton held a slim 20-18 lead at the break, when neither team was hitting shots during the first 20 minutes. But Dayton made a real push after intermission when Khari Price nailed a triple to give his team a 32-26 lead and force a Syracuse timeout with just under 13 minutes to play.
Syracuse kept it close, however, and an Ennis layup with 18 seconds left push the Orange to within one. But his missed jumper on the ensuing possession led to Pierre's free throws, and Ennis' winning trey then clanked off the rim.
Syracuse couldn't buy a bucket for much of the evening. It finished shooting 39 percent from the field -- including 0-of-10 on three-pointers -- and couldn't take advantage of 14 Dayton turnovers. This program had national title aspirations when the season began, and those hopes continued as it started the season 25-0 and climbed to No. 1 in the AP poll. But the wheels came off for the Orange, losing five of their last seven games entering the big dance. Coach Jim Boeheim can blame a poor offensive effort for his team's ultimate demise in the tournament.
Dayton, meanwhile, moves forward after two unlikely upsets. Most fans would blame Dayton for the first bracket-busting win of the postseason: Its 60-59 upset of 6-seed Ohio State on Thursday. Now the Flyers have guaranteed that the Sweet 16 will include two double-digit seeded teams: Dayton and the winner of Sunday's meeting between 11-seed Tennessee and 14-seed Mercer. The Flyers will have to shoot a little better for 40 minutes to hang with the winner of Kansas and Stanford in the next round, but Dayton may finally have some fans rooting for the underdog.
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