No matter how many fans packed into UD Arena, no matter how high the decibel level rose, Vee Sanford could always hear his grandma.
“Go, Vee!” she would shout.
Valerie Johnson came to every home game, Sanford said, and her passing earlier this month after a one-year battle with cancer left the senior guard from Lexington, Ky., shaken. That was the story behind the decision not to start Sanford on Saturday and one of the reasons he scored a team-high 14 points in Dayton’s 78-58 victory over St. Francis College (N.Y.) at UD Arena.
Sanford has had trouble dealing with his grandma’s death. Coming off the bench helped him relax. He called it a good move by coach Archie Miller and his staff.
His grandma would have been proud of the way Sanford played Saturday, though he said she would be proud of him even if he shot 0-of-20 from the floor.
“I grew up with her,” Sanford said. “I lived with her. I was a neighbor all 22 years of my life. She’s in a better place. She’s with me. She’s with this team. I think about her every day. This is a place of business. I’ve got to take care of my business. But I know she’s looking out.”
Sanford shot 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. He led a balanced scoring effort as the Flyers played their best game of the season, especially in the second half as they broke open a close game.
Jordan Sibert, who started in Sanford’s place, and Khari Price each scored 13. Matt Kavanaugh added 10. Devin Oliver scored 9, and Dyshawn Pierre had 8.
The Flyers (3-0) led 43-40 with just under 12 minutes to play when they began a 26-8 run with a jumper by Sanford. Price provided the most important basket in that stretch — and maybe the biggest of the game — with a 3-pointer from the corner that bounced high off the rim before falling through the net to give Dayton a 54-43 lead with 9:06 to go.
The Flyers stretched their lead to as many as 24 points, completely dominating the second half against a team that upset defending ACC champion Miami in its season opener. The big difference in the second half: Dayton committed only four turnovers and turning it over 12 times in the first half.
“We cleaned up our turnovers in the second half, which enabled us to get to some baskets,” Miller said, “and every time you get a few baskets, guys start to feel a little confident. That’s the big thing for us moving forward, identifying these roles, who’s working well together and get some of the guys playing a higher level.”
Dayton at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN3, 1290, 95.7