Dayton Drops Buckeyes In Opening Round

Dayton took advantage of its Buckeye State battle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, bringing an end to Ohio State's season with a 60-59 win over the Buckeyes in Buffalo.

With a reverse layup to give his team a late lead, it appeared as if Aaron Craft would play the role of postseason hero for Ohio State for the second consecutive season. But in a matter of moments, the Buckeyes senior guard's college career came to an end, as Vee Sanford answered back with a floater over Craft with 3.8 seconds left on the clock to give 11th-seeded Dayton (24-10, 10-6) a 60-59 win over No. 6 seed Ohio State (25-10, 10-8) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

"Craft is a great player and a great defender. But the door was wide open as far as when the floor was cleared," Sanford said. "I just wanted to go right. I knew that if I could do that, I had a high chance of hitting the floater off the backboard."

Sanford did just that and Craft's attempt at an answer fell short with a contested shot as time expired. As a result, the Buckeyes' streak of four consecutive Sweet 16 appearances came to an end, as did one of the most storied careers in OSU history.

"I have zero thoughts on that right now," the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year said of his legacy. "I'm upset at the way that we played this game and the way that we didn't take the opportunity and make the most of it. So that's for you guys to decide and discuss, but right now, I can't move past this game yet."

Sanford's game-winner came on the ensuing possession of a Craft reverse layup with 17 seconds left on the clock that gave the Buckeyes a 59-58 advantage. The back and forth nature of the game's final three possessions was par for the course in a second half that saw eight lead changes between the two Buckeye State schools -- four of which came in the final minute.

"Coming into this game, we had talked about extending leads and that sort of thing," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "We weren't able to get over that hump in terms of what we needed to do. That was the difference."

The last field goal make of Craft's college career gave the Buckeyes a one-point lead and put Ohio State back on top after Flyers forward Dyshawn Pierre made all three of his free throws after being fouled by Shannon Scott during an attempt from long distance. Buckeyes forward Sam Thompson had previously broken a 55-all tie with a floater with just 59 ticks remaining in the game.

It was Craft who had tied the game at 55 with 2:05 left in regulation with an And-1 layup that erased an intentional foul that he had committed against Dayton guard Jordan Sibert on the game's previous possession. Sibert sank both of his free throws to extend the Flyers' lead to three after a Devin Oliver layup gave Dayton a 53-52 advantage.

Craft ultimately scored seven of Ohio State's final nine points, the first two of which came on a layup with 3:32 left on the clock to give the Buckeyes a 52-51 lead. That helped make up for a 4-0 Flyers run from the charity stripe, which put Dayton back on top after a Lenzelle Smith Jr. jumper that extended Ohio State's advantage to three.

"I just wanted to do everything I could to help our team win," Craft said.

An Ohio State exit seemed imminent early in the second half, as the Flyers took a 43-35 advantage on a Kendall Pollard layup with 13:42 remaining in the game. The Buckeyes answered back with a 10-0 run that included eight points from Thompson, as his tip-in with 10:32 left on the clock gave his team a 45-35 lead.

Ohio State's leading scorer with 18 points on the day, Thompson said that it was too soon to reflect on his impressive performance.

"I really don't know, man. I honestly don't even remember that whole stretch," Thompson said. "My mind is thinking about something else."

After Sibert -- an Ohio State transfer -- tied the game for Dayton with a jumper, freshman forward Marc Loving put the Buckeyes back on top with a three-pointer. From there, the back and forth nature of the game's second half ensued with the Flyers ultimately having the last laugh.

"I can't even describe it right now," said Smith, Ohio State's other senior this season. "Mistakes cost us our game and this season. It's a tough loss."

The first half saw Ohio State open on a 5-0 run in the game's opening 2:30 before a Sibert three jump-started a 13-4 run for the Flyers. Dayton extended its lead to six points on a Matt Kavanaugh layup with 9:58 remaining in the half, but the Buckeyes took a 22-21 advantage on a pair of Craft free throws.

After two Pierre freebies regained the lead for Dayton, Smith put the Buckeyes back on top with a layup and Marc Loving pushed OSU's lead to two with a free throw of his own. An Oliver jumper preceded a Thompson three that gave the Buckeyes a 26-28 advantage, but the Flyers closed the final 2:39 of the half on a 7-2 run to take a 33-30 lead into halftime.

Pierre led Dayton with 12 points on the day and Sibert added nine against his former team. But while he may have been the primary storyline heading into the battle between the Buckeyes and Flyers in Buffalo, it was Sanford's game-winner that stole the show and brought perhaps a fitting ending to Ohio State's season and an unjust one to Craft's career.

"It's amazing the way that, you know, defense has kind of been my thing, and it's amazing how it's going to end with a kid getting the game winner on me," Craft said. "There's so many things that are going through my mind right now that I wish could have gone differently, but they didn't.  He made a big shot, made a big time play, and we couldn't come back."


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