By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News —
BUFFALO — The morning session of the NCAA tournament in Buffalo Thursday afternoon served up two very different games.
Dayton's upset was brewing the entire second half as Ohio State struggled to make shots. It came down to the end and, after a driving circus shot by Dayton's Vee Sanford, Ohio State senior Aaron Craft had the ball with the game on the line.
"I just tried to get up the floor as quickly as possible," said Craft, who had to drive the length of the floor. "There's only four seconds left. That's kind of how our whole season's gone. I thought I got it up there high enough, and I obviously didn't."
Craft was rightfully disappointed after his final career game, but the school's all-time assists leader (694) left everything he had on the court, finishing with 16 points, including several tough finishes near the basket and the go-ahead bucket with 17 seconds left before Sanford's winner.
OSU head coach Thad Matta called Craft one of the all-time great Buckeyes.
"I thought he was great," Matta said. "Just from the standpoint of we wouldn't have been in this position had he not been doing the things he had done to get us here. You look at his career, in my mind, in the 10 years I've been at Ohio State, he's going down as one of the all-time greatest players to ever put on the scarlet and gray."
In game No. 2, the Orange got out to a big lead early and never looked back.
Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis scored 16 points and controlled the pace of the game throughout for his Orange.
Boeheim called the Canadian product "a key guy."
"We don't have a whole lot of point guards. He's extremely important to what we do," Boeheim said. "I thought he was good today. He's always pretty solid. Today he made a couple 3s, which makes him even more effective. … He's been good all year. He's been very steady all year. He's a very mature player."
In the first game of the night session, the Connecticut Huskies got all they could handle from the St. Joseph's Hawks.
But, like great players tend to do, senior guard Shabazz Napier made the big plays when his team needed them most, en route to an 89-81 overtime win.
Napier only managed eight points in the first half and knew he had to make an impact in the final 20 minutes to give his team a chance to win.
"You know, the first half went by so fast. I was in the locker room, and I was just telling myself, 'Man, I got to do something because my teammates need it.'" Napier said. " And at the end of the day, this may be my last game.
"My teammates helped me. They willed me, like they have been throughout the whole season," he continued. "Guys are telling me, Shabazz, keep going. Keep shooting. You're going to make the next shot. And they willed me."
Napier scored 19 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and overtime period. With just over three minutes to go he took over, sinking a pair of free throws and then finishing after a foul at the rim for an and one. The Huskies led 80-73 at that point and coasted the rest of the way.
St. Joseph's senior Langston Galloway was the star for the Hawks. He finished with a game-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers. He had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation with the score tied, but missed an off balance runner.
At times in the first half of the final game at FNC Thursday night, the heavy underdog No. 15-seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers had those remaining in attendance excited for another possible upset.
But the Wildcats kept their composure and, despite shooting 0-for-11 from three-point range, took a 27-23 advantage into the locker room at halftime. The Gazette press deadline crept up quick after the overtime matchup between St. Joe's and Connecticut. We apologize for the incomplete update.
The Panthers struggled in the half court set in the first half, shooting a dismal 27 percent from the field. Wisconsin-Milwaukee only managed four two-point baskets, but luckily were able to drill five from beyond the arc to stay within striking distance.