A March Madness without the Dayton Flyers doesn’t seem right — not after the program reached new heights with four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Dayton’s season ended this season in the Atlantic 10 tournament with a 14-17 record, but played nine games in the big dance between 2014 and 2017. Of those games, the first one remains the most memorable.
March 20 marks the fourth anniversary of Dayton’s 60-59 victory over Ohio State in Buffalo and the go-ahead bank shot by senior guard Vee Sanford with 3.8 seconds to play — a shot CBS analyst Bill Raftery described as “a kiss to be remembered in Dayton.”
The Dayton players in that game celebrated the memory Tuesday on Twitter.
Jablonski's game story:Sanford's shot fell through the net at 2:19 p.m. on the first day of spring, almost 47 years after Don May's incredible performance against North Carolina in the national semifinals, 30 years and a month after Ed Young hit The Shot against DePaul and 131 days after Jordan Sibert kicked off the season with a November miracle.
For one moment Thursday, and at least until Saturday when they play No. 3 seed Syracuse, the Dayton Flyers captured the attention of an entire nation fixated on March Madness. The first game of the second round ended with Sanford, a senior from Lexington, Ky., driving the right side of the lane and scoring on a bank shot over the head of Ohio State star Aaron Craft with 3.8 seconds remaining.Complete story.
Tom Archdeacon's take:When he broke from the huddle with 10.8 seconds left with his Dayton Flyers down by one to Ohio State in the NCAA tournament and the focus, not only of Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes' best defender, but the entire First Niagara Arena crowd about to zero in on him, Vee Sanford said he heard just one thing.
“Our guys all told me to relax,” the UD guard said. “They told me just to relax and do what I do.”
In the breathless final seconds of Thursday afternoon’s game, Flyers coach Archie Miller had informed his gathered players that Sanford — the quiet guy who, without complaint or posturing had given up his starting spot from a year ago to become an off-the-bench spark “for the good of the team,” as he explained it — would carry the hopes of victory on a planned drive to the basket against the Big Ten’s defender of the year two of the past three seasons.
How could he?
"Yeah, I could," Sanford said softly. "It's just playing basketball, whether it's in a packed arena like this or outside in the park."Complete story.
I LOVE YOU ALL I LOVE VEE SANFORD I LOVE EVERYTHING.
Dayton's plan: Dayton had lost its previous game 70-67 to St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Devin Oliver missed a 3-pointer with 4 seconds to play and Dayton facing a two-point deficit.
The execution of that play was on Dayton coach Archie Miller’s mind when it came time to draw something up in the final seconds against Ohio State.
“Yeah, you know, the Saint Joe's game, I've been thinking about that all the way through,” Miller said after the game. “I didn't put those guys in a situation where we were going to be able to get a good shot. We took out all the confusion this time. (Sanford) was able to get the ball up at the top. Once we got it up at the top, we spaced and just kind of ran up and got out of the way just to see if we could create any kind of confusion up on the top. I think Aaron (Craft) may have took his head off the ball for just a quick second, and Vee, if he can get on the side of you, can get to the rim. If he'd have made it, missed it, the guys did a good job. But I just wanted to make sure we got a shot at the basket.”
Miller picked Sanford to take the last shot for a simple reason.
“He's the guy that can get the shot,” Miller said. “He's the guy that can get the shot up. He's been in that situation a lot for us. Most people have watched us play have seen him come down that right lane line probably 20 times this season and banked that banker right off the glass. I was worried about him getting bottled up. We wanted to get him a lane where maybe he could get it downhill. I thought Devin (Oliver) did a great job coming up and slipping. Vee was able with the first step to get the first dribble by him. That was a big key in the other play. Vee made that shot a lot. He's terrific inside of 15-16 feet, making those type of shots. We have a lot of confidence in him. He's the one guy we can call his number, and he can get one.”
2014 1st Round
Vee Sanford hits the decisive runner as #11 Dayton upsets #6 Ohio State.
Sanford's view: Sanford attended the postgame press conference and was asked about the shot
Were you nervous?
SANFORD: No, I wasn't nervous. I just thank God and thank coach for trusting me. We've probably drawn up a play like that and I messed it up previously, but he just kept his trust in me, and I'm just thankful that the shot went in. And just as a follow-up, what did that shot mean to you knowing you transferred here to Dayton and to seal this win, this back‑and‑forth win against Ohio State?
SANFORD: It goes above me, us as a family and as a team, it's all about how hard we worked and how we've bounced back through our hard times. So it goes on above me.
Vee, during the timeout with ten seconds left, they design a play to get you the ball. What did Coach say? Can you take us through that?
SANFORD: Mainly, he wanted me to go right and kind of just open up the floor. He knows that's my strength. If I had opportunity to get to the basket, you know, I have a high percentage of hitting the shot. So it was a well drawn up play, and I'm just thankful that I was able to execute it.
Craft's view: Craft was known for his defense but couldn't stop Sanford on the winning shot.
“I just wanted to do everything I could to help our team win, and down the stretch, I couldn't do that today,” he said. “I can take blame for that. This is the fourth game winner hit on me in my time here. I can't change it. Obviously, you want it to end differently, but these guys still have time. The best thing that we can do is just move forward. Got to give Dayton a lot of credit. Obviously, he made a big shot down the stretch. They made the last punch, and we couldn't. ... 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. Obviously, I think I knew he wanted to go right. 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.”
Thad Matta's take: Ohio State's head coach suffered his first loss to a team from Ohio. Prior to this game, no in-state team had defeated Ohio State since Toledo in 1998. Matta couldn't fault the effort of Craft.
“Honestly, me telling him how to play defense would be like me telling somebody how to build a rocket ship,” Matta said. “I'll live and die with that kid any day of the year of what he's going to do defensively. The kid made a tough shot, a runner that went in. These things happen. I would trust him more than anybody I've ever coached in terms of those possessions.”
Credit: David Jablonski
Credit: David Jablonski
Ohio State's last chance: Craft caught the in-bounds pass and dribbled the length of the court before putting up the final shot of his career in traffic at the buzzer. It bounced off the rim.
"I thought it was going in," Miller said. "I've seen those a bunch since I've been at Dayton, but more importantly, I've watched Ohio State, in particular. I've watched those guys win that game a thousand times. He's a bulldozer with the ball. He got it down there in about three dribbles, and he got a good look. It just ended up rimming out, and we got lucky."
Of his shot, Craft said, “Just tried to get up the floor as quickly as possible. There's only four seconds left. That's kind of how our season's gone. Thought I got it up there high enough, and I obviously didn't.”
Credit: David Jablonski
Credit: David Jablonski
Underrated performance: Three seniors who would play in four NCAA tournaments and set a school record for career victories were freshmen in 2014 and played against Ohio State.
Kyle Davis played only three minutes. Scoochie Smith played 14 minutes and had one point and two steals. Kendall Pollard didn’t put up big numbers — two points, two steals and two rebounds — but he played 15 minutes off the bench. It was the most playing time he received since Jan. 18.
Miller put Pollard in the game with 8:13 to play because he wasn’t happy with the way senior Devin Oliver was playing for a four-minute stretch. Pollard stayed in the game until the 3:30 mark and was a defensive sub in the final minutes. Pollard ended up front and center in the Dayton Daily News photo of the team celebrating the victory.
“We gave Kendall a chance and wanted to give D-Mo a blow,” Miller said. “He did a great job while he was in there. While that happened, Ohio State went small. When they need something to click, they go (Marc) Loving or (LaQuinton) Ross in together with your five, and next thing you know, you're in a tough spot, either getting back or in the half‑court. Kendall's role this season has grown. I have confidence in him. He's a good player. He's going to be even better. But we were able to play small the rest of the way as well, which we haven't done all season. I thought that's a great thing for a freshman to be in there in those moments.”
Clutch shots: Sophomore Dyshawn Pierre led Dayton with 12 points and made 7 of 7 free throws. None were bigger than the three he made with 27 seconds left. He was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Shannon Scott with the Flyers trailing 57-55.
“I was trying to stay calm, stay focused, and I knew we had to make those free throws for the team,” Pierre said. “Luckily, I did.”
Kavanaugh's game: The Flyers led 33-30 at halftime thanks to senior center Matt Kavanaugh. He scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. He didn't score in the second half and took only one shot, but he scored above his season average of 5.5 points.
“In the first half, I was able to capitalize on some switching opportunities,” Kavanaugh said. “I had a couple good rolls to the basket, and the guards were able to find me on some open cuts to the hoop. In the second half, they switched their lineup and went small so it was a little more of a challenge for me to stay on the court.”
The famous headline: The Dayton Daily News made headlines itself with its headline in the March 21 edition. It read simply, "The University of Dayton," and it was a hit on social media, for everyone outside Columbus at least.
Aftermath: The Lexington, Ky., native Sanford, who's now playing in France, started his pro basketball career in Iceland several months after graduating from Dayton in 2014.
Asked then about his game-winning shot, he said, “Oh man, Lexington’s a pretty big basketball town. There’s been a lot of love since I’ve been down here from the people I went to school with or people who go to UK or went to UK. A lot of people down here don’t like Ohio State.”