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Dayton upsets Syracuse to reach Sweet 16

Devin Oliver of the Dayton Flyers reacts after

Devin Oliver of the Dayton Flyers reacts after defeating the Syracuse Orange in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 22, 2014 in Buffalo. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

BUFFALO - The odd part was, even after Tyler Ennis missed the final shot and the buzzer sounded, it all was still a toss-up. There was no clear way to determine which was the greater shock: that Dayton won or that Syracuse didn't.

"We usually pull out situations like this and I definitely thought we were going to be able to pull it out tonight," said Syracuse's Jerami Grant, who was held to four points. "But you can't pull out every game."

Dayton, though, has been able to do it twice in a row. Despite the fact that they are fairly new at this sort of thing, the 11th-seeded Flyers had enough strength, savvy and heart to hang on for a 55-53 win in Syracuse's backyard. Dayton kept its head amid the March Madness.

"Very few guys on our team have NCAA experience," winning coach Archie Miller said. "We just played a couple of opponents about whom you could say it was quite the opposite."

The Flyers (25-10) are moving on to the Sweet 16, having shown they definitely were not out of gas after knocking off intrastate rival Ohio State in the emotional closing seconds Thursday. They basically repeated their wild celebration after another frantic ending.

Twice the game was in the hands of Ennis, a freshman who is considered a likely lottery pick in this year's NBA draft. Each time, it looked as if fate was smiling on Syracuse again, as it often has in the postseason.

First, Dayton's Jordan Sibert stepped out of bounds when his team had a one-point lead. But Ennis missed a jumper with eight seconds left.

Ennis' Canadian countryman, Dyshawn Pierre, grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit only one of two free throws to make it 55-53 with seven seconds left. Rakeem Christmas rebounded for Syracuse, which gave the many orange-shirted fans the idea that the game was theirs to win.

It was, but they lost it.

"The coach wanted the ball in my hands. I knew I had enough space to take a shot," Ennis said.

Right to the last instant, the Syracuse fans still thought their team was going to be celebrating. That included Ennis, who said, "It felt good when it left my hand. You can't make every game-winning shot."

He was too dejected in a stunned, quiet locker room to say whether he will come back for another year at Syracuse or whether he will be a one-and-done player. The Orange still was grappling with the "done" part of their season.

Dayton not only beat Syracuse (28-6) on its own turf but did so at its own game: defense. The Flyers don't play a vaunted zone, but they can shut the other side down. Ennis made only 7 of 21 shots and fellow future pro C.J. Fair shot only 4-for-14.

"I think we're the best team in the country," Ennis said. "Any loss, no matter who it was, would have been disappointing."

But Syracuse wasn't the best team on this court on this night.

Dayton's Devin Oliver, a senior from Derek Jeter's alma mater in Kalamazoo, Mich., said, "It's an incredible feeling. It could have been a high school team . If we're going to the Sweet 16, nothing's better."

To the very end, Syracuse thought it was due to make a shot.

"A lot of guys in Vegas think that, too," coach Jim Boeheim said. "And they go home with nothing."

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