I had forgotten how loud UD Arena can get. The atmosphere here is incomparable. My first-ever college basketball game was at this very place in 2002. Two things that I remember clearly from that game have not changed in the slightest in the past nine years. First, the place is loud. At multiple points in Wednesday's clash between Dayton and Big East foe Seton Hall, the venerable old building had its roof blown off by deafening roars for the home team's efforts. The unique, less-than-optimal winged design may not do much in the way of sight lines or proximity to the court, but combined with the low ceilings it helps funnel crowd noise from the always-rabid #FlyerFaithful directly to the court. Second, the place smells like roasted almonds. You might think this isn't a big deal, but that scent makes all the difference. It's now impossible for me to catch a whiff of roasted almonds at the fair or some other gathering without thinking of the heavenly scent wafting through the concourse at UD.
Another one of the arena's most unique features is its ability to draw marquee opponents with regularity. Whereas a game featuring a major-conference (BCS, Power Six, whatever) opponent at home is a moment to be cherished once every eternity or so at places like Wright State, it's a common occurrence at UD (as the school is known in area shorthand). Previously this year the Flyers defeated a ranked Crimson Tide team, and will be hosting Ole Miss for the last nonconference home game of the season. For Dayton, tonight was surprisingly routine. Not to say that it was just another game for the assembled crowd -- far from it. The fans showed an extra level of electricity for this one. No, it was the players that came out with just enough swagger to show that they've been here before and it was no big deal. So what if Seton Hall plays in the mighty Big East? UD had already knocked off some of the best the SEC has to offer.
The Flyers played tough against a very good Pirates team the entire game and didn't seem fazed by the talent of Herb Pope or Jordan Theodore at any point. Seton Hall led by as many as 10, but UD always stuck around. Unfortunately for the assembled Dayton fans, the Pirates would prevail after a slew of late-game fouling. The loss was disappointing. The players believed that they would win, and the crowd did as well. There were no moral victories, no consolation in a close defeat. A loss is a loss, whether it's to a sub-300 or a top-5 RPI squad. The cost of swagger is often the inability to see the silver lining. When you believe that you will win every time, the losses are that much harder. Every time.
SETON HALL 69, at DAYTON 64 12/21/2011
SETON HALL 10-1 (0-0) -- J. Theodore 5-10 2-4 14; F. Edwin 3-4 1-2 7; P. Auda 7-10 2-3 18; A. Cosby 5-10 0-1 13; H. Pope 6-12 1-3 14; H. Karlis 0-0 0-0 0; A. Geramipoor 0-1 0-0 0; F. Wilson 0-0 1-2 1; B. Mobley 1-3 0-0 2; S. Grennan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 7-15 69. DAYTON 8-4 (0-0) -- K. Dillard 5-14 3-6 14; J. Benson 6-11 2-4 14; C. Johnson 5-7 3-3 16; P. Williams 1-5 2-2 4; J. Parker 1-6 4-4 7; M. Kavanaugh 4-6 1-1 9; D. Oliver 0-2 0-2 0; A. Gavrilovic 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-53 15-22 64.
Three-point goals: SHU 8-16 (H. Pope 1-1; J. Theodore 2-3; F. Edwin 0-1; P. Auda 2-3; A. Cosby 3-6; B. Mobley 0-2), UD 5-18 (P. Williams 0-2; J. Parker 1-4; C. Johnson 3-5; K. Dillard 1-5; D. Oliver 0-2); Rebounds: SHU 31 (H. Pope 9), UD 29 (J. Benson 9); Assists: SHU 19 (J. Theodore 8), UD 12 (K. Dillard 4); Total Fouls -- SHU 15, UD 13; Fouled Out: SHU-H. Pope; UD-None.