It is often said that the early bird gets the worm. There is something clearly advantageous about getting the jump on your competition, both in Our Game and in almost every other facet of life. That clearly manifested itself in today's game.
First off, today was the first time that whichever students got to the arena first got the best seats. Usually, there is a system where your seats are assigned based on the number of soccer or volleyball games you have attended and by whom you'd like to sit. But not today. So, I found someone crazy enough to forgo about four hours of studying for finals (which I'm currently ignoring to write this post. Dedication.) and show up to the arena two hours early to try to get the best seats we can against a team that, in all honesty, we didn't really know existed until a few days ago. So my dear friend Kelsey and I took the earliest bus we could over to UD Arena, and were rewarded with front-row seats. After we took our seats, we started talking, telling stories, just having a good time in general, while realizing that the next students wouldn't arrive for about another hour, and that we really didn't need to get there as early as we did. But, we enjoyed our talk (at least, I did) and game time finally arrived.
Just like arriving super-early for our seats, the beginning of the game didn't really work out as we anticipated. Dayton was clearly sluggish, likely on some sort of hangover from vanquishing nationally-ranked Alabama a few days earlier. It also probably wasn't helpful that only about 75 students actually came out for this game. Apparently, finals week combined with a non-big-name opponent can really have an adverse effect on student attendance at basketball games. SC-Upstate clearly had game-planned well, exerting some form of full-court pressure for the entire game, which really caused problems for our Flyers. They also played shut-down defense on our top two players, causing Chris Johnson and Kevin Dillard to be held scoreless for the first half. The Spartans were clearly ready to play from the opening tip, and went play-for-play with Dayton for the entire half, leading to a 32-32 tie at the intermission.
And even in the second half, the Spartans came out firing first, scoring the first five points of the half, leading to some tense emotions from the stands. Eventually, Dayton pulled it together. Kevin Dillard's incredible play-making ability combined with Devin Oliver pulling down almost every rebound in his area code led to the first real feeling of any sort of Dayton momentum and eventually pulled out to a lead. But Upstate (which was the text on their jerseys, I found this a little strange) wouldn't be kept down. Mario Blessing and Torrey Craig did not seem to miss anything, which kept the game interesting until the final buzzer sounded. When it did, the scoreboard read Dayton 72, SC-Upstate 68.
So Dayton gets a win, and South Carolina-Upstate gets a check. But something else happened here. Upstate didn't just get "Trucked For Money" as my friend Mike Jones so eloquently puts it. They proved they can play with some bigger schools, and for a school in its first year being a full-fledged NCAA member, that should be a good stepping stone. Maybe they didn't get the victory on the scoresheet. But I think they still got their worm.
at DAYTON 72, SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 68 12/11/2011
SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 6-4 (0-0) -- T. Craig 9-18 0-0 21; T. Greene 4-6 1-1 9; A. Rodgers 2-4 0-0 4; M. Blessing 2-6 0-0 6; R. Glenn 3-4 4-4 10; B. Olumuyiwa 4-9 0-1 8; C. Rogers 1-1 0-0 2; J. Maxey 1-2 0-1 2; C. Cook 2-4 0-0 4; F. Miller 1-3 0-0 2; R. Elam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-57 5-7 68. DAYTON 7-3 (0-0) -- J. Benson 5-8 0-0 10; P. Williams 2-5 5-6 10; C. Johnson 0-2 2-2 2; K. Dillard 4-7 2-3 10; J. Parker 2-5 0-0 5; M. Kavanaugh 5-7 1-1 11; D. Oliver 4-6 4-4 12; L. Fabrizius 3-4 0-0 9; R. Hill 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 26-45 14-16 72.
Three-point goals: SCU 5-14 (T. Craig 3-8; T. Greene 0-2; M. Blessing 2-3; B. Olumuyiwa 0-1), UD 6-14 (P. Williams 1-2; J. Parker 1-4; L. Fabrizius 3-4; K. Dillard 0-1; D. Oliver 0-2; R. Hill 1-1); Rebounds: SCU 23 (T. Craig 7), UD 22 (P. Williams 8); Assists: SCU 17 (A. Rodgers 4), UD 17 (K. Dillard 5); Total Fouls -- SCU 16, UD 12; Fouled Out: SCU-None; UD-None.