Game #9-085: North Carolina A&T at Wright State RaidersNovember 16, 2012 7:00 pm
Ervin J. Nutter Center
Wright State is a bit of a challenged university. It has only been an independent institution for 45 years, it was a branch campus of Ohio State and Miami University until it became autonomous in 1967. WSU is generally viewed as inferior to its Division I neighbor, The University of Dayton, or other nearby universities like Ohio State, Miami, Xavier, and Cincinnati. Even smaller colleges in the area like Earlham, Capital, Wittenberg and Cedarville will pop up quicker on college ranking lists then Wright State.
If you take a look at Wright State's athletic hall of fame page
, it is mainly a page of "who is that," not "fame." There are a few recognizable names, Brian Anderson if you follow baseball, Hylton Dayes or Greg Andrulis if you're a hardcore soccer person, Frank Lickliter if you watched the PGA Tour, or Vitaly "The Ukraine Train" Potapenko, who made it into the NBA for a few seasons.
Honestly, one of the most famous Wright State athletes isn't even on that page, or famous for being an athlete. Bob Pollard, lead signer of Guided by Voices, one of the musical muses of the Mid-Majority, played baseball for the Raiders back in the 70s,. Pollard threw the school's first no-hitter back when the school was competing in Division II. The legacy lives in the rows and rows of team pictures that line the halls of the Nutter Center on the lower level near the practice gyms and the student entrance.
Don Mohr, the man who founded the athletics program back in 1968 and was the school's athletic director until 1981, passed away in the past year. Prior to Wright State's game with North Carolina A&T, the home opener for Wright State, Mr. Mohr's family was presented with a framed jersey that had a black band on the strap that simply read "DON." The bands will remain on the Wright State jerseys for the remainder of the season.
Just like the school they represent, this year's Raider squad doesn't have a lot of history. There are no seniors on this year's team, Julius Mays, using the graduate student exception, transferred down I-75 to play for the defending national champions Kentucky. John Balwigaire, Alex Pritchett, Jason Cuffee, and Vance Hall all transferred to lower division schools and Armond Battle and Johann Mpondo graduated. So Billy Donlan, himself just in his third year as head coach at Wright State, has a whole bunch of fresh faces to work with.
The coach wandering the North Carolina A&T sideline definitely isn't a fresh face. Cy Alexander has been a fixture in HBCU basketball for decades. Alexander started as an assistant at Howard before getting the head gig at South Carolina State. At S.C. State, Alexander led the Bulldogs to five NCAA tournaments before moving on to a higher-level job at Tennessee State. The Ohio Valley Conference circuit proved to be a bit too tough, so Alexander went back to his MEAC roots at N.C. A&T.
N.C. A&T claims to have the crunkest gym in America. Sadly, I've never had the opportunity to go to a game there, but a YouTube search pops up some fun videos. The atmosphere at the Nutter Center is well, decidedly not crunk. The 10,400 seats are way too many, considering Wright State averages just under 4,000 fans a game. The building was built more to host other events, like a concert from comedians Key & Peele that would be there the next evening or WWE's Monday Night RAW, which would be there Monday.
There just isn't a lot of tradition and school spirit it seems at Wright State. You would think that a school of 18,000 students would turn out a large number of alumni that would support the program. The problem at Wright State is only 3,000-4,000 students live on campus. The rest live off-campus and commute to school. Add to the fact that the Nutter Center is on the opposite side of campus from the residential buildings, and you can see the challenge it can be to get students involved with the basketball team.
Wright State got off to a quick start with a jumper from local product A.J. Pacher from Vandalia, and superhoops from Reggie Arceneaux and Kendall Griffin. Griffin is from Avon, Indiana, the arch-rival of Brownsburg, the hometown of Mr. Too Big, Gordon Hayward. You can say he hates the 'Burg in a big way. Superhoops from Austin Witter and Adrian Powell would bring things closer, and it was 8-6 Wright State at the first media timeout.
Surprisingly, there were some folks rooting for the road team. The Aggies do have a couple of Midwestern players, but most of the support wasn't wearing blue and gold. Seemed like some students from nearby HBCUs Central State and Wilberforce may have attended to help their colleagues.
Wright State would slowly increase their lead in the first half. Around the midpoint of the half, junior college transfer Miles Dixon and freshman J.T. Yoho would hit threes to extend the lead to 21-10. The Raiders momentum stalled out at that point, and the final eight minutes were played fairly evenly, with Wright State taking a 29-20 lead to the locker room.
The Nutter Center is known to book some strange halftime acts. Last season during my visit
, a man named Jonathan performed as all five members of the Village People. This year, a man named Steve Max, who is apparently one of the premier "Simon Says" callers in the world, led around thirty contestants in a game. Mr. Max was tricky with quick commands and using repeat commands telling you to do the same thing you were already doing to trick folks. Ultimately, it came down to one male and one female contestant. But there was only one minute left before the court had to be cleared, so the game ended in a stalemate.
The Wright State band does try to add to the atmosphere. I was amazed to hear one selection from the band. The movie EuroTrip has a song that became a cult hit called "Scotty Doesn't Know
." It only reached the 50s on the singles chart and was the only "hit" for a band named Lustra. But the Raider band was blasting it away, despite its obscurity. I asked the band leader after the game to confirm that is what I heard. He said it was and was a band favorite, but that it's not as popular with the freshmen because they've never heard of the movie or the song. EuroTrip was made in 2004, eight years ago, another sign of how old you are and how young college students seem.
The second half didn't produce a lot of drama. A jumper by Dametrius Upchurch and two free throws from Jean Louisme got the Aggies within five, 29-24 early in the half. That was as close as the deficit would ever get though. NC A&T could not get any offense going, they would only hit 15 of their 45 shots on the evening, including a paltry 4-of-22 from beyond the arc. This is the Pretty, Pretty Pain Cave
after all. Wright State's defense was bludgeoning the Aggies.
Not that the Raiders could really put the game away either. Another Miles Dixon superhoop reestablished the double-digit lead at 40-30 with 10:54 left. But pushing the lead much past that gap was a challenge. Wright State weren't helping themselves much at the free-throw stripe. In a sign of team solidarity or self-punishment, the Wright State male cheerleaders have taken to doing five push-ups for every free-throw miss.
Thankfully, the young, middle school cheerleaders who were there as part of the "Cheer Camp All-Stars" didn't have to partake, because the Raiders would provide the cheerleaders a workout. Wright State would only make 9-of-20 at the free-throw line, meaning 55 push-ups over the course of the evening for the male cheerleaders.
The lead would reach it's apex when Yoho (pronounced yo-hoe) hit a lay-up to make the lead 14 at 50-36. The missed free throws would continue to add-up, and the Aggies would close the gap a bit at the end. But not enough to produce any real drama, the final score on the evening would be Wright State 56, North Carolina A&T 44.
at WRIGHT STATE 56, NORTH CAROLINA A&T 44
At the end of the game, the cheerleaders and dance team gathered together to link arms while a gentleman sung the alma mater. There's a line in the song that states "Great deeds old inspire the new." Wright State hasn't had many great deeds of old to create inspiration. There was the Division II national champion hoops team in 1983 and a couple of teams that won conference titles and made the big dance at the Division I level. Wright State is working on creating a new nostalgia, that will prouder and grow louder, over time.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T 1-2 (0-0) -- A. Witter 4-13 0-1 10; L. Middleton 2-5 2-5 6; A. Powell 3-10 2-2 10; D. Upchurch 2-4 0-0 4; J. Underwood 0-3 3-4 3; J. Louisme 2-5 3-4 7; B. Beckford 1-2 0-0 2; R. Buck 1-1 0-0 2; L. Smith 0-0 0-0 0; S. Stewart 0-2 0-0 0; W. Siverand 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 10-16 44.
WRIGHT STATE 3-0 (0-0) -- K. Griffin 1-4 0-2 3; J. Yoho 5-7 2-2 15; M. Dixon 5-8 2-3 14; M. Vest 1-6 4-6 6; A. Pacher 3-6 1-4 7; R. Arceneaux 2-5 0-0 5; T. Sledge 1-3 0-2 2; J. Young 2-3 0-1 4; J. Bramanti 0-0 0-0 0; B. Drummond 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-43 9-20 56.
Three-point goals: NCAT 4-22 (A. Powell 2-6; A. Witter 2-8; J. Underwood 0-2; J. Louisme 0-3; B. Beckford 0-1; S. Stewart 0-1; L. Middleton 0-1), WRIG 7-22 (M. Dixon 2-4; A. Pacher 0-2; M. Vest 0-3; R. Arceneaux 1-3; K. Griffin 1-4; B. Drummond 0-1; J. Yoho 3-4; J. Young 0-1); Rebounds: NCAT 31 (A. Witter 9), WRIG 26 (A. Pacher 5); Assists: NCAT 4 (L. Middleton 2), WRIG 14 (M. Dixon 4); Total Fouls -- NCAT 19, WRIG 18; Fouled Out: NCAT-J. Louisme; WRIG-None.