NEW YORK (AP) — Vee Sanford tied a career high with 23 points off the bench on a perfect shooting day, and Dayton beat Fordham 87-74 on Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament in another boost to the Flyers’ NCAA tournament hopes.
Fifth-seeded Dayton has won 10 of 11 to go from a team with little hope for an NCAA bid to one that will give the selection committee plenty to think about. The Flyers (23-9) face fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s in Friday’s quarterfinals in a match up of two bubble teams. The Hawks swept Dayton in the regular season.
The Flyers led by as many as 22 points, though the 13th-seeded Rams briefly made things interesting early in the second half. But it’s hard to completely erase a huge deficit when the opponent rarely misses. Dayton shot 59 percent from the floor and made 9 of 19 3-point attempts.
Sanford was 9 for 9 from the field, including three 3-pointers, and made both free throws.
Branden Frazier scored 30 points for Fordham (10-21) but shot just 8 of 27. He made 10 of 11 free throws and had four 3-pointers. The Rams beat 12th-seeded George Mason in Wednesday’s play-in game to snap an eight-game losing streak and win a conference tournament game for the first time since 2007.
The Flyers dropped five of six to finish January, but only one of those losses was a bad one, at Rhode Island. Since then, they’ve been almost unbeatable, though the lone defeat came at Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 25. The hot streak included a road victory over then-No. 17 Saint Louis.
Their non-conference resume features a neutral-site win over Gonzaga.
Fordham had the ball down 66-61 midway through the second half but Jon Severe forced up a 3-point attempt that missed badly. Jordan Sibert pushed the ball up the floor for a layup that gave Dayton some breathing room.
Sibert finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Devin Oliver had 17 points and 11 rebounds.