I enjoy watching college basketball not just for the event itself, but also for its allegorical relationship to everyday life. The human triumphs within each game are thrilling. Not only is the last second buzzer beater fantastic, but it adds an exciting dimension when it gives a kid confidence in his ability for the rest of the season.
Trial by fire is one of my favorite human angles to the game. Seeing a young but well-coached team get rocked in the early season can be painful to watch, yet the reward is so much greater when they finally break through and tap in to their potential. This game was exactly that for Wright State.
Two nights prior, the Raiders had bested a decent Idaho team on a buzzer-beater in OT. The jubilation in the Nutter Center was palpable as everyone rode the high of getting that first big win of the year. After some frustrating games in the early season (expected thumpings by Ohio State and Florida, unexpected thumpings by North Florida and Air Force), the Raiders broke through with a solid win. The game against MAC foe Central Michigan would be either a hangover loss or the opportunity to showcase the newly energized and synergized Raiders.
Central Michigan had something to prove as well. Having lost five of their last six against solid opposition, the Chippewas were hungry for a win. The five losses were of varying degrees and had all come on the road, and they rolled into Wright State via Temple, Tennessee State, Minnesota, Iowa State, and Nebraska. The Chips were clearly gassed, even in warmups. Despite all this, I expected CMU to win a competitive contest.
Instead, the Raiders built on their nail-biter over Idaho to showcase that energized and synergized squad. The Chippewas jumped out to an early lead, but before long it was all Wright State, and the Raiders weren't looking back. Bound and determined to show that the previous win wasn't a fluke, Wright State battered Central Michigan until the final margin illuminated the board. Their 60-42 victory was due in large part to CMU's fatigue, but the Raiders also shut down sophomore phenom Trey Zeigler, holding him to a mere five points. That, combined with some previously difficult to find offense, made the win relatively painless.
Unfortunately, the game was anything but for Central Michigan. Going on a winter break hiatus, the Chips won't play again until their first league game vs. Toledo on January 7th. That gives them an especially long time to sit and stew about their road trip and focus on starting strong in league play.
The Raiders experienced the trial by fire and have emerged a more complete and mature squad. The Chippewas experienced the trial by fire and emerged with only weariness and losses. Although the picture may not be rosy now, there is still hope. The Chips can refocus and make a run in league play. Redemption is within reach. Triumph is still waiting to be achieved.
at WRIGHT STATE 60, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 42 12/22/2011
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 5-8 (0-0) -- D. Jackson 4-11 3-4 13; T. Zeigler 2-6 1-3 5; A. Coimbra 3-7 1-2 7; A. McBroom 1-5 0-0 2; O. Mbaigoto 3-7 0-0 7; A. Keel 2-5 0-0 4; J. Morris 0-1 0-0 0; F. Craddock 1-4 1-2 3; Z. Saylor 0-0 0-0 0; J. Harden 0-0 1-2 1; J. Myrick 0-0 0-0 0; A. Barnes 0-0 0-0 0; N. Jordan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 7-13 42. WRIGHT STATE 6-8 (1-1) -- J. Mays 5-14 0-0 12; R. Arceneaux 4-10 2-2 11; V. Hall 5-7 0-1 13; A. Battle 2-2 4-8 8; J. Mpondo 0-0 0-0 0; J. Balwigaire 3-7 0-0 8; C. Darling 2-3 1-2 6; T. Sledge 0-1 0-0 0; A. Pacher 1-1 0-0 2; J. Cuffee 0-1 0-0 0; K. Griffin 0-1 0-0 0; S. Gossard 0-0 0-0 0; U. Thomas 0-0 0-0 0; M. Vest 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 7-13 60.
Three-point goals: CMU 3-17 (F. Craddock 0-1; A. Coimbra 0-1; D. Jackson 2-6; A. Keel 0-3; O. Mbaigoto 1-3; A. McBroom 0-3), WRIG 9-22 (J. Mays 2-4; C. Darling 1-2; V. Hall 3-4; R. Arceneaux 1-5; J. Balwigaire 2-5; J. Cuffee 0-1; K. Griffin 0-1); Rebounds: CMU 29 (A. Coimbra 8), WRIG 29 (A. Battle 6); Assists: CMU 7 (T. Zeigler 2), WRIG 16 (J. Mays 6); Total Fouls -- CMU 16, WRIG 16; Fouled Out: CMU-None; WRIG-None.