The Syracuse Orange basketball team (28-5) lost to the Dayton Flyers (24-10) 55 to 53 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 on Saturday night in Buffalo.
The Flyers started off the game with a bang, as Khari Price sank a three pointer as the shot clock expired on their first possession. The Orange responded with a bang of their own, as Tyler Ennis fed Rakeem Christmas for a rim-rocking dunk.
But, the Flyers proved they were ready to play, causing several SU turnovers early on, and jumped out to an 11-4 lead. The Orange stayed the course though, creeping back into the game by not allowing a Dayton field goal for more than seven full minutes.
SU briefly took the lead on two C.J. Fair free throws at 17-16, Dayton scored on its next possession and kept the lead going into the half at 20-18. SU forward Jerami Grant did not attempt a single field goal in the first half.
The low-scoring, gritty affair continued in the second half, with a Rakeem Christmas basket briefly tying the score, only to have Jordan Sibert retake the Dayton lead with a three pointer.
A Trevor Cooney flagrant foul (because of an elbow) allowed the Flyers to take a four point lead at 26-22.
After Dayton opened up a six point lead with another Price three-pointer, the Orange came back again, as Fair made a driving lay-in to cut the lead to one, followed by a Jerami Grant steal which resulted in a Michael Gbinije layup that gave the Orange the lead at 36-35.
Dayton would once again make a run, first tying the game at 40-40, then hit two big threes to retake a five point lead at 47-42. That's when Ennis came alive, scoring four straight points to cut the lead to one, but moments later, an Ennis turnover led to an easy fast break layup, putting the Flyers back up three at 49-46.
After a Jordan Sibert three made it 52-46, it was Ennis again, first getting fouled while converting a layup to make the lead 52-49, then was once again fouled driving to the basket, making both free throws to put the Orange down one with 22 seconds to play.
Two made free throws put the Flyers up two once again, and..once again..Ennis drove to the basket and converted the layup, putting the Orange down 54-53 with 16 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds play, an SU trap forced Sibert to step out of bounds, giving the Orange the ball back, only to have Ennis miss a 15-foot jumper.
Ennis had one last try for the win as time expired, but it fell short, as did SU's season, losing 55-53 to Dayton.
Ennis led the Orange with 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. In his final game, Fair had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Gbinije provided eight points off the bench. SU shot just 38.9 percent from the field. Dyshawn Pierre scored 14 points to lead the Flyers.