By Andrew Kahn
If you kept your eyes on the television after Dayton’s last-second victory over Ohio State, you may have noticed a Dayton player falling on his backside after jumping to celebrate with his teammates at midcourt. It was a rare slip—in this case, a literal one—for Dyshawn Pierre so far in this NCAA Tournament, who has been poised under pressure but apparently a little careless in less important situations.
Pierre and the 11 seed Flyers upset Ohio State in the Tournament’s first game on Thursday and shocked 3 seed Syracuse in Buffalo on Saturday. The combined margin of victory was three points and Pierre has been a major factor in both games.
The sophomore forward tallied 12 points and eight rebounds in the 60-59 win over Ohio State. He didn’t miss a shot, hitting both of his field goals and all seven of his foul shots. Other than a pretty reverse lay-up early in the first half, all of Pierre’s points gave Dayton the lead. None were bigger than his three free throws with 26 seconds left. Pierre, running the baseline as Khari Price drove towards the hoop, briefly raised his hand to call for the ball. Price found him for a three-point attempt from the left corner, and Pierre was hit on the arm and head as he released the ball.
The 67 percent free throw shooter stepped to the line with his team down two and, as he’d say later, “just tried to stay calm.” He sure looked it, draining all three in the same manner—with a smooth shot that just nicked the back rim as it passed through the net. Dayton gave up a basket at the other end but Vee Sanford’s runner on the ensuing possession was the game-winner.
Two days later against Syracuse, Pierre went for 14 points and six rebounds and again found himself at the line with the game hanging in the balance. He made two with 23 seconds left to extend Dayton’s lead to three and the first of two to make it 55-53 Dayton with seven seconds left. The Flyers survived a last-second three-point attempt from Pierre’s former AAU teammate, Tyler Ennis, to advance in the South Region. They will face 10 seed Stanford in Memphis on Thursday in the Sweet 16’s most unlikely match-up.
Whether Dayton can keep this run going will depend partly on the play of the 6’6”, 210-pound Pierre. The small forward from Whitby, Ontario, averaged 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds as a freshman last season. He’s upped those numbers to 11.2 and 5.7 this season while maintaining his high shooting percentages. According to KenPom.com’s “similar player” metric, Pierre’s sophomore year has been comparable to the sophomore seasons of Elias Harris, Da’Sean Butler, and Quincy Pondexter, three highly productive college players who went on to pro careers (only Pondexter has stuck in the NBA).
Pierre won back-to-back high school provincial championships and has represented Canada in the U17 and U19 World Championships. He is an athletic wing player who is great in traffic around the rim and can make you pay for sagging off him on the perimeter (he’s hit 48 of 112 from deep in his two college seasons). On the other end of the floor, he’s helped Dayton put together two fine defensive performances—Syracuse had its second worst output of the season, from an efficiency standpoint, against the Flyers; Ohio State had its fifth worst.
Thursday’s game against Stanford may be another low-scoring affair in which every possession, especially late in the game, is magnified. Pierre can act like he’s been there before, because he has twice already in this Tournament. Dayton fans have come to expect him to deliver.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Sports who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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