Welcome to Dayton. Situated in southwestern Ohio approximately an hour north of Cincinnati, Dayton is known primarily as a city of inventors and innovators. James Ritty, a local saloonkeeper, invented the cash register here in 1879. Charles F. Kettering invented the electric car starter here in 1911. Both of their contributions to modern life are overshadowed by Orville and Wilbur Wright, the two brothers who invented the airplane here in 1903. Wright State University is named for them and sits next to the U.S. Air Force base that also bears their name. However, just as the contributions of Kettering and Ritty are often overshadowed by that of the Wright Brothers, so is Wright State's contribution to college basketball often overshadowed by the much more visible school to the south.
On the opposite side of town, the University of Dayton looms impossibly large. Host of innumerable NCAA tournament games, including the First Four, UD packs 13,455 fans into its sold-out arena for games against the likes of Western Illinois and South Carolina Upstate. Writers and pundits always go on ESPN and sing the praises of the Flyers and their fans.
But what about Wright State? The Raiders play in the Ervin J. Nutter Center, a similarly sized venue with a capacity of 10,400. Since joining Division I in 1987, Wright State has made the tournament twice. It has won 20-plus games in four of the past six seasons. Yet it receives a scant amount of media attention and has trouble getting people to games (an average of just 5,277 per last season).
That's what made Wednesday night's game against Big East foe Cincinnati so exciting, despite the unfavorable outcome. Before anyone could blink, the score read 17-2 in Cincinnati's favor, and even my non-sports-inclined girlfriend commented that the matchup made the Raiders look like an overmatched high school squad. They played decent defense, but when Wright State plays the Tokyo to Cincinnati's Godzilla, there's only so much that can be done. The final margin was a brutal 20 points.
The narrative was obviously focused on UC's first game since Yancy Gates decided to play "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" with Kenny Frease's face, but it was really Wright State's night. The ESPN cameras were there. Andy Katz was roaming the sideline. Students were in full body paint and armed to the teeth with brawl-related chants. Anytime a team has a chance for a RLU on its home floor it's a big deal, but this was especially big time. A season-high crowd of 5,977 saw UC drop the atomic elbow, but Raiders fans saw opportunity -- the opportunity to grab a critical piece of national exposure and the opportunity to play on ESPN2. More importantly, it was the opportunity to step out of UD's enormous shadow for one night and show that Dayton isn't home to just one invention or one basketball school. There's enough room for two basketball programs in this town.
CINCINNATI 78, at WRIGHT STATE 58 12/14/2011
CINCINNATI 6-3 (0-0) -- S. Kilpatrick 7-15 0-0 20; C. Wright 5-10 0-2 12; D. Dixon 3-7 3-7 10; J. Parker 5-8 2-3 14; J. Jackson 4-5 3-6 11; J. Sanders 3-3 0-0 9; K. Gaines 1-1 0-0 2; J. Davis 0-2 0-0 0; A. Eppensteiner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-51 8-18 78. WRIGHT STATE 4-7 (1-1) -- J. Balwigaire 4-6 1-2 11; J. Mays 2-5 0-0 5; A. Battle 1-3 4-6 7; R. Arceneaux 3-9 0-0 7; A. Pacher 5-9 1-2 11; V. Hall 2-2 6-6 10; T. Sledge 2-3 1-1 5; C. Darling 1-4 0-0 2; K. Griffin 0-1 0-0 0; J. Mpondo 0-0 0-0 0; J. Cuffee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 13-17 58.
Three-point goals: CINC 14-32 (D. Dixon 1-5; C. Wright 2-7; S. Kilpatrick 6-12; J. Parker 2-3; J. Davis 0-2; J. Sanders 3-3), WRIG 5-12 (J. Mays 1-2; A. Battle 1-3; C. Darling 0-1; A. Pacher 0-1; R. Arceneaux 1-3; J. Balwigaire 2-2); Rebounds: CINC 29 (J. Jackson 8), WRIG 19 (A. Pacher 6); Assists: CINC 15 (C. Wright 8), WRIG 8 (J. Mays 2); Total Fouls -- CINC 19, WRIG 18; Fouled Out: CINC-J. Jackson; WRIG-None.