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Originally published March 22, 2014 at 8:11 PM | Page modified March 22, 2014 at 10:13 PM

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NCAA South: Dayton stuns Syracuse with its defense to advance to Sweet 16

Flyers reach the round of 16 with second historic victory of the week

Dayton (Ohio) Daily News

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Dayton Flyers celebrated on the court at the First Niagara Center as if they had won the Billion Dollar Bracket challenge.

In a way, they did. They have the perfect bracket right now — perfect in their minds, perfect in their dreams, perfect in every way for the hundreds of Dayton basketball fans who drove north to Buffalo to see them reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years.

An impossible dream back in January — the season perched on the brink of collapse — came true Saturday as No. 11-seeded Dayton beat No. 3-seeded Syracuse 55-53 in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

The Flyers might have posed in front of one of the many Buffalo statues on the way out of town because they made this town theirs this week with two of the biggest victories in the history of the program.

Dayton (25-10) now will walk into Memphis, Tenn. — after their flight there this week — and will face either No. 2 Kansas or No. 10 Stanford in the regional semifinals Thursday. Stanford and Kansas meet Sunday in the third round.

“It means everything,” junior Jordan Sibert said. “To be able to get here with my teammates is just a blessing.”

“It’s a great feeling,” sophomore Jalen Robinson said. “We worked so hard for this. We showed the world we can compete with anybody. As long as we stick with it and never fracture and continue to stick with our system, anything can happen.”

For the second consecutive game, the Flyers watched a shot go up at the buzzer, knowing if it missed, they would advance. Dayton sophomore Dyshawn Pierre made one of two free throws with seven seconds remaining. Then Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis took a three-pointer with two seconds left. It was off the mark.

“The last shot was a great shot. It was the right play,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “A chance to win the game. You don’t have enough time to get to the basket. I have no problem with that shot.”

It was one that made Dayton coach Archie Miller nervous.

“That thing was on the line, and he went for the win,” Miller said. “The thing that went through my head was the game at Pitt, when I saw that highlight on SportsCenter 7,000 times, when he banged the three on Pitt. Similar situation.”

Once again, just as they did Thursday when Aaron Craft’s last shot missed and they beat Ohio State 60-59, the Flyers piled on top of each other.

The Flyers won this game by sticking to what got them here. Eleven different players saw action. Eight scored. No one had more than Pierre’s 14. Sibert had 10.

Dayton showed defensive prowess, holding the Orange (28-6) to 39 percent shooting and 0-for-10 shooting from long range.

“The defense was great,” Miller said, “but you could also play them 10 times, and I don’t think that some of those shots would be missed. So a little bit of luck is on your head, and you need that in this tournament.”

“It’s hard to digest any loss,” said Ennis, who finished with 19 points on 7-for-21 shooting. “They did a good job defensively, and the looks we did get we didn’t capitalize.”

Florida 61, Pittsburgh 45

ORLANDO, Fla. — Scottie Wilbekin scored 21 points, including eight in a row down the stretch, and the Gators (34-2) beat the Panthers (26-10).

Florida’s 28th consecutive victory put it in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year.

Coming off a lackluster performance in its NCAA opener against Albany, Florida vowed to play better against the Panthers. Wilbekin surely did. He took over in the second half, scoring 11 of the team’s 13 points during a seven-minute stretch. Patric Young wasn’t too shabby, either, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds.

Michael Frazier II chipped in 10 points for the Gators. Frazier was just 2-for-9 shooting from three-point range. Had Florida not been cold from behind the arc, the game would have been essentially over much sooner than it was. The Gators finished 5 of 20 from three-point range. Florida will play either fourth-seeded UCLA or 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin

The Associated Press contributed

to this report.

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