Vee Sanford put the V in victory and added the rest of the letters, too.
The Dayton senior claimed he was far from perfect after an 87-74 victory over Fordham on Thursday in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. In this game, however, that’s just what he was: 9-of-9 from the field, 2-of-2 free throws, 23 points, four rebounds, an assist and no turnovers in 23 minutes.
That’s a stat line a player would dream about his whole career. The guard from Lexington, Ky., did it in the game that might have clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament for the Flyers.
Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports’ Seth Davis, for one, thinks this victory did just that.
“Dayton, NCAA Tournament, Sharpie,” he wrote on Twitter.
Some experts will say No. 5 seed Dayton (23-9) still needs to beat No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s (21-9) in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. today to clinch a spot in the big dance. That might be the case. For at least a few moments Thursday, though, the Flyers could relish their 10th victory in the last 11 games.
Devin Oliver scored 17 points, Jordan Sibert had 14 and Dyshawn Pierre added 12. Sanford outshined them all. He fell one made field goal short of becoming the third player in Dayton history to shoot at least 10 shots and make them all.
“Just a good night,” Sanford said. “I’m glad my teammates could find me.”
Sanford lived up to the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ classic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” a song that will be referenced more than once this weekend at the Barclays Center: “Foot on the pedal, never ever false metal. Engine running hotter than a boiling kettle.”
That described the entire Dayton performance in the first half. Devin Oliver hit a 3-pointer on Dayton’s first possession. The Flyers hit their first four shots and shot 8-of-11 from the field in the first seven minutes.
Dayton shot 63 percent overall in the first half, led by 22 and took a 50-31 lead into the break. It was their largest halftime lead of the season.
“It was good to get off to a great start,” Oliver said. “I think our guys were excited. We had a lot of energy to start the game. We weren’t really fearful of anything. We shot the ball with confidence.”
If Dayton hoped to rest its starters in the second half and stretch that lead into the 30s, Fordham had other plans. The No. 13 seed Rams, who beat No. 12 George Mason 70-67 in the first round Wednesday, started the second half with a 17-5 run.
Three times Fordham (10-21) closed to five points. Dayton finally got some breathing room on a jump shot by Devon Scott with 5:27 to play. The Flyers led 75-65 at that point. Fordham never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
“Advancing is the greatest feeling in the world this time of year,” Dayton coach Miller said. “I give (Oliver and Sanford), these two in particular, a lot of the credit. We finished the regular season Saturday night with a lot of emotion, and to our leaders’ credit and to our kids’ credit, we stayed very consistent.”
Dayton vs. Saint Joseph’s, 2:30 pm., NBC Sports Network, 1290, 95.7