ST. LOUIS, Mo. (cuse.com) - A second-half surge by the No. 10 seed Syracuse proved to be the factor in knocking off the No. 7 seed Dayton 70-51 on Friday afternoon at the Scottrade Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
After an initial slow start from both sides in the opening half, the Orange came out firing on all cylinders, outscoring the Flyers 25-5 in the first 13 minutes of the second half to create a 56-33 lead heading into the final seven minutes.
The Syracuse defense was a huge aid in the victory, as the Orange held the Flyers to a season-low 51 points while outrebounding Dayton 48-28. Junior Tyler Roberson led the defensive upwelling, registering 18 rebounds, his second-highest effort on the boards in his career. With the 18 rebounds, Roberson added 10 points for his sixth double-double of the season.
Freshman Malachi Richardson paced the Orange on the afternoon, racking up 21 points, including three 3-pointers while going 8-9 from the charity stripe. Freshman Tyler Lydon added 14 points, while going 5-6 from the free throw line. The rookie duo helped Syracuse to an impressive 20-23 effort from the free throw line.
Grad student Trevor Cooney finished with 13 points, and grad student Michael Gbinije added 10 points and a team-high four assists.
The Orange and the Flyers traded buckets to open the contest, holding each other under 10 points until the 12:15 mark, when back-to-back three's by Dayton made it 12-8. A 3-point basket by Richardson brought Syracuse its first lead of the game at the 9:42 mark, 16-15.
The two teams continued to battle back and forth, holding each other scoreless for three minutes before a take to the rim by freshman Tyler Lydon knotted it at 20 apiece with just under six minutes left. Lydon drained a subsequent three to make it 23-20, but the Flyers answered right back with a trey in the next possession with 3:53 left in the opening half.
The Orange began to find its rhythm in the closing minutes of the half, as a dunk by Roberson and Gbinije's first three of the game gave Syracuse a five-point advantage, 28-23, at the 3:11 mark. Dayton, however, didn't let up, as a 3-pointer by Scoochie Smith evened the score out at 28 with 1:21 left.
A layup by DaJuan Coleman with 33 seconds left put the Orange on top, 30-28, capping a two-point lead for Syracuse at the end of the opening half.
Syracuse started the first five minutes of the second half on an 8-1 run to take a 10-point lead 39-29, forcing a Dayton timeout. The Orange continued to surge in the first 10 minutes, as back-to-back threes from Cooney and Richardson brought Syracuse a 45-31 lead at the 13:55 mark.
Lydon extended the lead to 17 with a jumper just under the 10-minute mark, 50-33. Cooney's second 3-pointer of the day came in the ensuing possession, bringing the Orange a 20-point lead and triggering a Flyer timeout with 8:57 left in the contest.
The Orange held the Flyers to just five points in the first 13 minutes of the latter half, as the Flyers ended a six-and-a-half minute scoring drought right at the seven-minute mark with a layup by Kyle Davis, 56-35.
A pair a free throws from Richardson gave the Orange a 19-point advantage with 4:23 left to play, 58-39. Roberson registered his double-double off of a big dunk with just over two minutes left, 64-48. Flyer Charles Cooke gave one last attempt with a jumper and a free throw, pushing Dayton over the 50-point mark 28 seconds on the board.
Syracuse advances to Sunday's second round where it will take on the winner of the Michigan State-Middle Tennessee contest.