Dr. Michael Cusack recently sat down with RaiderRoundball.com to talk about his many experiences as Wright State Athletics Director from 1982 through 2008. He was only the second director for WSU since the start of intercollegiate athletics in 1967 and led a period of dramatic growth and transition for Raider athletics. At his induction ceremony into the Wright State University Hall of Fame, Paul Newman, who introduced Dr. Cusack, said that there is one word that best describes him. That word is architect. Dr. Cusack managed the school’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I in 1987, and its move to the Mid-Continent Conference in 1991 and to the Horizon League in 1994. He oversaw construction of the Nutter Center in 1990, the Setzer Pavillion/Mills Morgan Center state-of-the-art training facility in 2005, the Alumni Soccer Field, Nischwitz Baseball Stadium, WSU Softball Field and the WSU Tennis Courts. His tenure also included the formation of such programs as the Athletics Director’s Club, Captain’s Club (now the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), LifeSKILLS program and the Hall of Fame. This is part one of a two-part interview. In this part, we’ll talk about the early years of Wright State athletics and some of the major changes that occurred during Dr. Cusack’s tenure as AD. In the second part, he will tell some stories and talk about many of the athletes, coaches, and personalities associated with Wright State sports throughout the years.
RRB: Tell us a little about yourself before you came to Wright State.
Dr. C: I got a chance to start out at a private school in 1967, called Queens College. It was part of the City University of New York. I stayed there for nine years, until 1976. I was coaching and teaching, and was an assistant basketball coach and an assistant baseball coach. In 1973, I became the head baseball coach and coached there for four years. That was the year that Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford for president. The city was in all sorts of trouble. They wiped out all of our positions, so that year I focused on my doctorate and finished that. Then I got the chance to be the athletic director at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. I went up there in the middle of the summer. About the end of spring, they called me and asked if I’d also like to be the baseball coach, and so I said, “OK.” I was the AD for three years, and gave up the job in the fourth year.
RRB: You became just the second athletic director ever at Wright State in 1982. What brought you to here?
Dr. C: What intrigued me about Wright State was that they were one of the top Division II programs in the country. They were a public school and I was at a Catholic school. They were large and we were small … we did everything. We had a student doing an internship for sports information, my secretary and me. That was about it. We had no equipment room or any of that stuff, but it was fun. I had heard about this place because there was a guy named Roger Glaser here, who partnered with Jerry Petrofsky. Petrofsy did most of the telemetry for the Nan Davis paraplegic project. Roger and I took our masters degree, back east. I even had him in some classes because I was teaching and doing my masters. So I thought that this would be a good place to come. When I was at Queens, I coached with a guy whose wife came from a little town called Fletcher. We used to come out here to visit, so we always came through Ohio State University. The first time that my kids stepped on that campus, they were little, looked around and said, “We want to go here.” Well, four of the five did. When I went to Mercyhurst, they were NAIA and moved to NCAA Division II right away, so I knew about Wright State. You know who’s good and who isn’t. This happened to be one that was good. There were a whole bunch of things that came together, way, way back. So when the job opened up, I applied for it. I got the job and started April 1, 1982. It was clearly a move up. I wasn’t thinking about Division I at the time. They had everything going. They just did things right.
RRB: What did athletics look like at WSU when you arrived in 1982?
Dr. C: To be honest about it, it didn’t look much different than when we went to Division I. The equipment room downstairs was excellent. We had good trainers. The gym looked like a high school gym that sat 2,800. The programs were good. They wanted to win and were well-funded. Just about every sport had done well. It was excellent and a great opportunity for me because I didn’t have to rebuild the program. I got to build it more. You can’t ask for anything more than that.
RRB: What did the staff look like?
Dr. C: They had a sports information director, Dave Stahl. The trainer and SID guy were here a long time. There was an older guy named Tommy Roush, down in the equipment room, who was a retired military guy. He was running it and right under him was Mike Zink. They had about four or five people down there. Two or three of them were here before I got here and they were here after I left. A lot of them were Wright State graduates. They had given their lives to the place, so it was great.
RRB: There were several major changes during your tenure as AD. Let’s talk about some of them:
RRB: Wright State was one of the best NCAA Division II programs in the country. In 1987 the program moved from Division II to Division I. What were the reasons behind the move? Who played major roles? What were the biggest obstacles?
Dr. C: We looked around. There was this big fish in a smaller pond and all around us was Division I. Central State was NAIA, but we had Miami, Cincinnati, Ohio U, Ohio State, and UD. We looked at the University itself. We had a medical school, engineering, and great art and theatre. We had all of this stuff that was really top draw and we felt like athletics really needed to be at that level too. The first time that we said that we were going to go Division I was in 1985. The faculty actually had a meeting and voted against it. That wasn’t binding, but I thought it was. I thought, oh well, what we were going to do now was to be the best Division II program … not among the best, but the best. Dr. Kegerreis, who was president at the time, said to me, “Forget about it. We’re going. We’re going to do it the politically right way and get the support of the faculty.” The faculty and staff had strong opinions, but the next year, in 86, it was voted to go. I got up and said a couple of things and I remember — and I don’t know who said it — one faculty member said something that impressed me. He said, “Whether I agree with it or not, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.” That was the sentiment and it said a lot.
RRB: The Nutter Center was built and hosted its first event on December 1, 1990. Walk us through the process of building that facility. What were the major obstacles involved with getting it built? How was it funded?
Dr. C: For a long while, we were thinking about building a 7,500 seat medium-sized facility. We looked at North Texas State, and flew around in Louisiana and looked at places like New Orleans. Then when Dr. Mulholland came, he said, “We really need to build a full-size one.” We had the PE Building, which is now the Student Union. There was a sense that they wanted to build a Student Union and I think he must have made an arrangement saying that we’ll build this, and then we can take them (athletics) all out of there and make that a Student Union. So that is what happened. It also coincided with about the time that Ervin Nutter sold his business. He was such a great Greene County supporter. They went to him and he said that he’d be the kind of seed money to get people. After that, there was a whole bunch of funding combinations. President Mulholland said that we’d have to go out and sell premium seats and corporate boxes. We raised a few million dollars there. Because Physical Education would be in there, the state anteed-up some money for education and then they sold the bonds. The whole thing came together pretty quickly.
RRB: Wright State began as an independent in Division I and eventually joined the Mid-Continent Conference in 1991. They moved to the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) in 1994. How did those moves come about?
Dr. C: That was kind of a drag. Before we were even Division I — probably my first year here — I sat in a meeting with a group of schools. Cleveland State, UIC, and a few others were there. In those days, UIC wasn’t UIC. They were the University of Illinois – Chicago Circle. They were going to form a conference with some other schools like Northern Iowa, Eastern and Western Illinois, and another one. They had football programs and that’s when they put together the conference called the AMCU (Association of Mid-Continent Universities). We were sort of looking at it, saying this was a good time to make a move. But once we made a move, it was a little hard. We kept getting turned down. The first conference we got into was for the women and it was called the North Star. We did pretty well there. After a few years, we got into the Mid-Con and hosted the tournament the first few years, mainly because we could draw so well. After a while, it got frustrating because some of the schools were really aggressive to move forward, while others were stuck with ADs that didn’t want to do anything. It was at that point that the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) was falling apart. Butler, Loyola, Detroit, and LaSalle were kind of left hanging. So I talked to Jon LeCrone (MCC Commissioner). Paul Newman and I got him to come to Dayton. We met with Jon in the conference room down the hall from Lisa’s office (Dr. Cusack’s secretary) and we outlined for him on a grease board and I said, “What do you think of this? How about we combine these two?” Not too long after that, we met in Indianapolis and we formed the MCC. After a few years, we felt like we wanted to step out of the pack a little bit, have a different name, not be geographic, and be more specific. So we changed the name of the conference to the Horizon League. RRB: Let’s talk about Wright State, athletics, yourself, and some of WSU’s people over the years:
RRB: You’ve probably had opportunities to leave Wright State. Why did you stay so long?
Dr. C: I almost left three times. When I came here, it’s Division II, then we get a chance to go Division I, then we get a chance to build an arena, and we move into an arena. In between we get in a conference and then another conference. If you look at it, my job changed five or six times over 26 years and I never had to change houses. If the job hadn’t changed, I probably would have been gone by the end of the 80’s. No question. There were opportunities. I thought about some and actually talked to the president, Dr. Mulholland, about others.
RRB: As AD, what was your biggest responsibility?
Dr. C: One obviously, is to set the vision and to dream. You can do that if you’ve got really good people who can do the nuts and bolts … and I did. I had (Paul) Newman with me for 23 years, and Lisa (Lemon) for a little less than 23 years. I had Peg Wynkoop, who was tremendous, when I got here. We had good coaches and I always considered myself to be the coach of the coaches. I had coached and knew what they were going through. So when things were going bad, I knew how bad they felt. I talked with them and encouraged them. I never entered locker rooms … didn’t believe in it. I felt like it was their family and I didn’t want to interfere. In fact, until the last year or two, I never attended a press conference. You have to evaluate coaches, make decisions on staff, demand, expect, and evaluate. But a lot of it related to the vision, what we were trying to accomplish, and giving help to the coaches and staff.
RRB: What was your most important consideration when making a big decision for WSU athletics?
Dr. C: We always asked the question, “What’s in the best interest of the students?” For example, when we offered a student-athlete a scholarship, our rule was that it was for four years. Even though you have to renew them every year, it’s four years. I talked to a person last night who played for me — one of my first players — who was the number one shortstop picked in the ‘76 draft. He was first-team All-American. He’s got a son who’s at Hofstra, getting $20,000 in aid, but he’s hurt. He’s worried whether he’s going to keep the scholarship. His coach has said, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, what can I do? I’m hurt. Our position was to never put parents in that position. Even when we’ve had to suspend athletes for doing something detrimental, I let them finish the year on scholarship, not because of them, but because of their parents.
RRB: Wright State is still a relatively new university. Are there any traditions that you are happy to see develop during your time as AD?
Dr. C: One tradition for us is to maintain a 3.0-plus grade point average. Another is to win conference championships on a regular basis. We didn’t have a year when we didn’t win something. Graduating our students is important. The University helped me over the years, especially Lillie Howard, to go out and help students who didn’t graduate. Mark Woods and a bunch of them came back. I believe that Bob Grant is now doing that with Bill Edwards. That’s a tradition that I like … the fact that we don’t forget about these people. The traditions that we tried to set up were all related to our students.
Dr. C: There are a lot of them. I’ve always enjoyed looking at our men and women wearing the Wright State colors and “Wright State” on their jerseys, swimming caps, or golf slacks. Being so competitive, I felt just as good or bad, if we won or lost in cross country, as I would in basketball. Winning is winning and I really love to win. One reason that I love it is because I think they learn more. You don’t learn a lot if you win every time. You learn a lot if you win enough to know how good it is, and lose enough to know that I have to do better and this is what went wrong.
RRB: What is your fondest memory of your time at Wright State?
Dr. C: Twenty-five years ago, one of our daughters got married and had the reception over in the Upper Hearth Lounge (Student Union). Opening up the Nutter Center and cutting the ribbon at Nischwitz Stadium are two. The highlights are obviously the graduations, various tournaments, and being with the students. One of the things that stand out, for example, is one Friday night. We were putting lights in at the soccer field. Newman called me and said, “They’re going to turn the lights on.” They had to burn them for 100 hours to get them burned in. So I went out there and was all by myself. I walked out to the middle of the soccer field with the lights on, and I’m thinking that this is so great. And a car with soccer players drove up from the highway, heading toward the campus, yelling out something to me like, “That’s great Dr. C.” Then while I’m there, a couple of soccer players who had graduated came out and said that they’d love to play under these lights. Highlights on a general basis were the Academic Recognition nights. Those are my absolute favorites. The first time that I ever saw that was at Louisville. I saw them do it and we stole it from them right away. The thing that’s so cool about it is your paying attention, shaking their hands and stuff, so you don’t realize it, but when it all ends, you look around the court and it’s ringed with these kids that are breaking their chops to play Division I — or whatever their sport is — and they were able to get a 3.0. That’s fantastic. Academic recognition is a tradition that I really like.
RRB: What makes you the most proud of your work at WSU? What was your biggest accomplishment?
Dr. C: The only thing that I tried to do was to give the coaches and players everything possible to be successful, whether it was facilities — which we did a lot with — or whether it was academic support or scholarship aid. I never looked at it as one or two of the proudest moments. There were just so many.
RRB: What was the biggest contributor to your success at Wright State?
Dr. C: From an administrative standpoint within the department, we had some good coaches already in place. Ralph Underhill, Jim Brown, and Bob Grote were here in basketball. Ron Nischwitz was here in baseball. We had to make a change in swimming because our swimming coach left … Jeff Cavana was here for a while and then he ended up at LSU. We started golf and cross country again. Pat Davis was here for women’s basketball and softball. Peg Wynkoop was here. We had a good group. When I first got here, Jim Dock was the number two guy. After a couple of years, Jim had a chance to run the Alumni Association. He wanted to run his own show and I didn’t blame him. That gave me a chance to look for a number two guy. There were two people: one I knew who had been the head baseball coach at NYU, and the other was Paul Newman. I knew Paul from Pennsylvania. He was the SID at Edinboro when I was at Mercyhurst. I talked to him a year before the job was open because I knew Jim was looking around. I said, “Come on down, you and Connie, and take a look at the place.” Paul had been at Edinboro for a long time when the job came open and I didn’t think that he was going to take it, but I offered it to him. He said that he was going to take a retirement at Edinboro. He came here and retired two years before I did. We got Lisa (Lemon), my secretary, a little after that. She was unbelievably smart and had a great temperament. Those two were closest to me. Peg Wynkoop was absolutely the best SWAD (senior women’s athletic director) that you could get and one of the best coaches that we ever had here. Susan Gayle did a wonderful job setting up the business systems. Once we got Bob Noss in sports information, he stabilized things there. We got Tony Ortiz as a trainer for a long time and he set the stage for the next folks. When Tom Roush retired, Mike Zink took over. If you run an organization and you don’t have to worry about everybody doing their job, and you have people willing to stand up to you and not just “yes” you to death, it’s great. Having really good people allows you to do more. It allows you to sit in your office and just think about what you want to have happen. You plan it out and ask, “What do you think?” And they’ll let you know what they think.
RRB: Who are some of the biggest success stories that you’ve seen come through Wright State?
Dr. C: There are so many over the years. Mark Myton who played soccer for us is one. He may have come here around 1981, before I got here. Mark might have been struggling with math and people were saying that you shouldn’t be majoring in engineering. He said, “No, I am going to major in engineering.” My thought was OK, although people kept saying that. That guy’s an engineer who has been working at the base for thirty years and he’s married to an MD. Mark Woods, who for various reasons you always knew was a good kid, gets himself into trouble. Then he comes back and gets his degree. DaShaun Wood went from being a very good player to a great player. The coaches had a lot to do with it. I think Billy Donlon changed him from being a very good college player into a great college player for us. And what people forget is that he graduated in four years. When he finished up and was trying to make the pros, he was also taking 24 credit hours. His mother passed away when he came. He had to go up and sign her death certificate when he was a freshman.
RRB: Who are some of the best all-around athletes that you’ve seen at WSU?
Dr. C: Hylton Dayes. He was a four-time first-team All-American. He’s the head coach at the University of Cincinnati right now. When a guy makes first-team All-American four times, you’ve got to figure that he’s a pretty good athlete. We’ve had Major Leaguers, NBA players, pro golfers, and national level swimmers. But Hylton was the most decorated. We’ve had swimmers who have been All-American 16 or 18 times because of different events, but we haven’t had anyone make first-team All-American four times.
RRB: How has stepping down from being the athletic director at WSU changed your life?
Dr. C: When I decided to do it, we had been tinkering around with the Sports Management program for a couple of years. I taught a class called The Role of Athletics in Higher Education every other year for about twenty years, and I really liked it. I can’t remember my exact thinking, other than this is a chance that I didn’t want to pass. I really felt like doing some teaching. If I had to stay a few more years … that’s no problem. But stepping away was no problem. So I thought that it was the perfect thing. This was in the spring of 2008, and within weeks of my retiring, the bottom fell out of the economy. Had I even had an inkling and some kind of crystal ball at that time, I wouldn’t have retired. For me personally, I never had to move back. We always moved forward. Bob Grant got stuck with having to make cuts, it’s not a good time, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that, and so forth. How have I changed? Apparently, based on what some of my students are saying, I’ve become much laid-back in the classroom. They think I’m a nice guy. I don’t think that I would be classified as that very often. I’ve gotten better in the classroom, because when you only go in there every other year, you really don’t know your way around. Once you get in there, it’s the most natural thing in the world. So I really enjoy that.
RRB: Do you have any desire to be involved in athletics in some form in the future?
Dr. C: I wouldn’t mind if somebody would ask, “What do you think?” But I like the teaching. I’m fooling around with the idea of doing a blog because I’ve got a lot of thoughts.
RRB: If you had a crystal ball, what will athletics look like at Wright State in 10 years, 20 years, and beyond? What would you like to see it become?
Dr. C: I could answer that better if I were the one determining the future. I don’t know because it depends on what the University wants to be. Do they want to make a commitment like Xavier? The University has made a good commitment. They’re very positive about athletics, but there are other things that have to be done. What will college athletics look like in the future? It looks to me like there are going to be a lot more haves and have-nots. Right now, there have been those major guys, and some guys that are sort of just below the majors, like Conference USA and the Atlantic 10. Then there are the mid-majors, which is us, the Valley and the Ohio Valley. Then there are the low majors. I’m thinking that some of these people shouldn’t even be in Division I. It’s conceivable, although I don’t know how, that these guys could break off. I don’t think they will, because it would be stupid for them to do it. But if you’re going to start paying athletes, how do we compete? I don’t know. If it’s just football, it may not be a problem. But if it’s across all sports, then it’s going to be tough to compete here. If a kid can go either way, he’s not going to say “I can really help build a program at Wright State.” when he can play over there and make $3,000 a year. There are a lot of things happening. I think we are at a cross roads in athletics. The question is: Where do we fit into that? I’m not sure how strong our conference is right now … all the way around. I don’t know. Baseball is certainly hurt. Softball used to be really good with UIC, but they’re not very good. Women’s basketball looks pretty good. There has been talk about building the conference up. I’m hoping that Northern Kentucky can get in. If Northern Kentucky came in, then you’ve got all sorts of rivalries. Northern Kentucky and Wright State should play each other. That’s a game that would draw people down there because they’ve got beautiful facilities, and up here because we have beautiful facilities.
RRB: Dr. Cusack, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – History was made at the Horizon League championship game played at the Nutter Center on Tuesday night, but not for reasons that the Wright State Raiders would like to remember. The Milwaukee Panthers became the only team ever to be picked last in the Horizon League’s preseason poll and go on to win the league tournament. They did it with a 69-63 victory over the Raiders in front of 7,784.
“I might have mentioned it a few times that we were picked last,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “We had ten new faces that came together. We figured out how to play together. Some leadership emerged and they really dug deep to get respect back for how we want to play as a group. Put that all together … and it produced a championship.”
Milwaukee (21-13) also became the first #5 seed to win the tournament in the league’s current format. It marked the third time in the last four years that the visiting team has won the championship game.
This one was decided early as the Panthers got off to a fast start. They won the game’s opening tip. Eleven seconds later, Matt Tiby drove the lane for two points and Milwaukee never trailed. They went on to build a 24-9 lead midway through the first half. And as things turned out, it was more than the Raiders could overcome.
“We knew that we had to come out and get that first punch,” Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron said. “We couldn’t take the punch because the crowd would get into the game and it would be harder to play from behind.”
JT Yoho hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Reggie Arceneaux hit a jumper in the lane to pull the Raiders to within 24-17. A pair of Chrishawn Hopkins free throws made it 32-27, before the Panthers built their lead back to 43-33 at halftime.
The 43 first half Milwaukee points matched the most given up by the Green & Gold all year long in Horizon League play.
Wright State began the second half by pounding the ball inside. They hit five close range buckets to pull within 47-43 with 16:39 left to play. But Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron, the tournament’s MVP, nailed a trey to stretch the lead back to 60-48, and another to make it 65-52 with 8:06 remaining.
“The key was the timing of the 3-pointers,” Jeter said. “They tried to speed us up. They go full court pressure, and we made an extra pass and were aggressive. Every time that they pressured us, we’d hit a three on the back side of that pressure. That really deflated what they were trying to do.”
From there, the Raiders were able to get to the rim a lot, but could not finish their shots. They clawed their way back to 67-63 with 1:03 left, but could not make enough plays down the stretch and eventually fell to the Panthers by the final score of 69-63.
The key to the game for Milwaukee was defensive stops. “We had to make sure that we could guard them,” Jeter said. “Not really worry about whether our ball would go in, but make sure that we got multiple stops. Our focus was more on the defensive end, trying to match their toughness and their discipline, so that we could be the team that got that last rebound or made that last play.”
The loss snapped a six-game Wright State winning streak and dropped their record to 20-14, after hovering around the .500 mark for the majority of the season.
“This is going to be painful for a very long time,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “I told our team last year that there is nothing like cutting down somebody’s nets on their court. This will be painful for all of us. We’ll need to use it as fuel going forward.”
AJ Pacher (16) and Matt Vest (11) were the only two Raiders to score in double figures. Kyle Kelm and Jordan Aaron led the Panthers with 20 and 18 points respectively.
The Panthers won the battle of the boards 35-28, which included 13 rebounds on their offensive end of the court.
“We’ve been getting out-rebounded all year,” said Milwaukee’s Kyle Kelm. “We knew coming into the tournament that this was something that we needed to pick up. Rebounding and getting to the 50-50 balls is why we’re where we’re at.”
AJ Pacher and Miles Dixon were voted to the all-tournament team. It was the second consecutive year that Dixon received the honor. Milwaukee’s Matt Tiby, Kyle Kelm, and Jordon Aaron were also named to the team.
Is postseason play a possibility? “Bob Grant and I will get together on that and we’ll discuss it at the appropriate time,” Donlon said.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
by WSU Athletic Communications
The Wright State men’s basketball team built a nine-point halftime lead, but had to hold off Valparaiso in the second half before defeating the Crusaders 67-58 on Senior Night Tuesday night at WSU’s Nutter Center.
Six straight points, four of those coming from JT Yoho, gave the Raiders a 14-8 advantage eight minutes into the contest and the lead grew to 30-18 on four consecutive Cole Darling points, the final two coming on foul shots at the 2:54 mark.
WSU led 32-23 at the break despite the Crusaders shooting 47 percent from the field compared to 41 percent for the Raiders. Valpo, however, attempted just 19 shots while Wright State had 27 attempts thanks in part to forcing 11 turnovers while committing only seven.
The margin was double figures at 49-39 on two AJ Pacher foul shots with 11:19 to play, only to see the Crusaders close to within four at 55-51 on an Alec Peters tip-in at the 4:07 mark.
A jumper and two foul shots by Pacher, though, push the lead back up to eight and the senior forward connected on a three from the top of the key made it 62-53 with 2:27 remaining.
Valparaiso cut the deficit to 63-58 on a three-point play from Moussa Gueye at the 18.9-second mark, but could get no closer as WSU scored the final four points of the contest on two Yoho free throws and a Miles Dixon dunk.
Both teams shot the ball well in the second half as Wright State hit 13 of 26 shots to finish at 45 percent while the Crusaders shot 46 percent the final 20 minutes to end up at 47 percent. WSU hit 15 of 18 free throws compared to 10 of 12 for Valpo.
Pacher led all scorers with 20 for the Raiders, 13 in the second half, while Darling scored all 12 of his points in the first half. Yoho added 10 off the bench.
Peters paced Valparaiso (17-13, 9-6 Horizon) with 11 points while Vashil Fernandez had 10.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders kept their hopes alive for a first round bye in the Horizon League tournament, by defeating the Detroit Titans 65-61 in a late-night battle that was a rarity of sorts. In order to accommodate an ESPNU national television audience, Friday evening’s game began with an unusual tip-off time of 10:00 pm. It may be the first time in school history that a Wright State men’s basketball game started on one day but didn’t end until the next (Saturday morning at 12:15 am).
Also, rare, is the fact that the Raiders came away victorious at home in a ballgame that was promoted by a free t-shirt giveaway. Coming into the game, Wright State was 0-2 at the Nutter Center this year in contests in which t-shirts were given away. They were undefeated in their other eleven home games.
The losing streak on t-shirt nights goes back several years. The black-out nights, for example, have become so notorious for unexplainable poor performances by the Raiders that no black t-shirts were given away this year. The black uniforms worn by the team on those nights have been in storage ever since last season’s upset at home to the UIC Flames.
Wright State head coach Billy Donlon, known to be superstitious at times, was fully aware of past history.
“Oh, I thought about it,” Donlon said. “It all started when we lost to Illinois State in a home opener. I was the assistant to coach (Brownell). We had a great crowd and we lost. We had a player just throw the ball to the other team four straight times. He was a great player, but it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was like watching Poltergeist from the early eighties.”
As was the case on most other t-shirt giveaway nights, things did not start well for Wright State (16-13, 8-6 HL).
The Raiders opened the game by going nearly nine minutes without hitting a field goal. Although their first six points came from the free throw line, it wasn’t until the 11:15 mark when Reggie Arceneaux connected on a wide open attempt from the left side, beyond the arc, to pull the Raiders to within 12-9 of the Titans.
Detroit (13-16, 6-8 HL) stretched the margin to 25-16, their largest of the game, before AJ Pacher scored the last basket of the half — a 3-pointer — to make it 30-29, still in favor of the Titans.
Chrishawn Hopkins tied the score for the first time since the opening tip, at 35 all, by hitting a trey in front of his team’s bench.
A basket by Carlton Brundidge gave Detroit their final lead of the night at 37-35.
It was then when Raider fans had an opportunity to witness one of the best individual 1-minute performances in Raider history. With the help of a Hopkins steal and assist, Matt Vest scored on a dunk to tie it again. Vest followed that up by hitting a pair of treys, lighting up the scoreboard for eight points over a 73 second span. Matt’s first 3-pointer gave his team their first lead of the game at 40-37. His second 3-pointer made it 43-37 with 14:03 left to play. He followed that with a tenth straight-point by hitting a jumper.
“Matt Vest, on both sides of the ball, for about eight minutes, was the best player in the league,” Donlon said. “He’ll be showing this video to his grandkids.”
Over the next ten minutes, when Wright State needed a bucket, they went inside to 6-foot-10 AJ Pacher. He delivered either from the field or the charity stripe by scoring eight of his team’s next 14 points, helping his team build a 59-51 lead with 3:40 left.
It was then that WSU seemingly went into a “prevent offense”. In an effort to shorten the game by reducing possessions, they began taking as much time as possible off of the shot clock before looking to shoot.
As a result of that style of play, the Raiders went scoreless over the next three minutes. It resulted in turnovers, bad looks at the basket, offensive fouls, and a shot clock violation. It also enabled Detroit to creep within 59-55 with less than a minute to play.
“We’ve got to get a little smarter, late, against the clock,” Donlon said. “I’ve got to do a better job, coaching our guys a little bit late.”
A Hopkins dunk broke the scoring drought to seal game, and Wright State held on to win 65-61.
Vest finished the contest with 16 points … a season high for him.
AJ Pacher led the Raiders with 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Tavares Sledge, who filled in for an injured Jerran Young, tied his career-high by pulling down 9 boards in 21 minutes of action. Reggie Arceneaux added 15 points.
Evan Bruinsma led the Detroit with a double-double by scoring 19 points and collecting 12 rebounds — 7 on the offensive end.
Detroit out-rebounded the Raiders 41-26 in the game, which resulted in an advantage of second chance points by 24-5.
After the game coach Donlon dodged the question when asked if he would have consider a ban on future t-shirt giveaways at the Nutter Center, had his team not come back to pull out the victory. “That’s way above my pay grade,” he answered.
Jerran Young is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Valpo. More will be known about his status over the weekend. Kendall Griffin will not play.
The Raiders return home on Tuesday February 25 for a rematch against Valparaiso on Senior Night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm. Wright State won in the first meeting between the two teams at Valpo 62-45.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders dropped an emotional and hard fought decision to the Cleveland State Vikings on Saturday afternoon by the final score of 72-68. The loss dealt a serious blow to any aspiration that the Raiders may have had of earning the number two seed in next month’s Horizon League tournament. With the defeat, they find themselves three games back in the loss column to the second place Vikings with just four games remaining on the regular season schedule.
“Those guys (Cleveland State) came in with a direct purpose,” said WSU head coach Billy Donlon. “They achieved their purpose.”
The contest began slowly for the Raiders (14-13, 6-6 HL), who missed a lot of good shot attempts in the game’s first six minutes to fall behind 16-3. But a pair of Cole Darling free throws, a pair of Matt Vest treys, and another trey by AJ Pacher, quickly drew Wright State to within 18-14 with 11:30 left in the half.
Cleveland State (17-9, 8-3 HL) slowly stretched their lead to 29-20.
Wright State then turned up their defensive intensity to pitch a shutout over the remaining five minutes of the half. The Raiders drew to within 29-28 on 3-pointers from JT Yoho and AJ Pacher, followed by a Yoho layup.
With 1:02 remaining until halftime, the Raiders had the chance to take their first lead of the afternoon with Reggie Arceneaux at the free throw line. His front end of a one-and-one bounced around the rim before falling out. The failed attempt snapped a perfect season from the line for Reggie, who was 25-of-25 prior to the miss.
Arceneaux redeemed himself on the next Raider possession, however, by nailing a shot from beyond the arc to send his team into the halftime locker room with their only lead of the half at 31-29.
The Raiders were firing away with the long ball in the first twenty minutes. They hit 10-of-22 shot attempts from the field for the half, which included 6-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Unlike the first half, which saw just one lead change, the second half saw 13 lead changes, eight tied scores, and a pair of double digit runs from each team.
After a Cole Darling 3-pointer put the Raiders on top 38-37, Cleveland State rattled off ten unanswered points to go up 47-38 midway through the second stanza.
Like a yo-yo, Wright State responded with the game’s next eleven points, capped by a fast break in which Chrishawn Hopkins lobbed the ball to a high flying Jerran Young, who finished with a thunderous slam dunk. It put the Raiders up 49-47 and sent the crowd into a loud wild frenzy.
Sensing the game’s momentum shifting, Vikings’ head coach Gary Waters called timeout to settle his team down. It worked. CSU’s Charlie Lee, who finished with a game high 25 points, hit a jumper and a 3-pointer on his team’s next two possessions to put Cleveland State back on top 52-49 with 6:51 left to play.
Wright State answered with a mini-run to retake the lead 58-54 — their largest of the game — after JT Yoho completed a traditional three point play on a jumper and free throw with 5:18 remaining.
From that point on, the lead changed hands seven times, and CSU’s Charlie Lee was nearly unstoppable. He stepped up big by scoring 12 out of his team’s next 14 points.
“Charlie Lee was magnificent,” Donlon said. “The hardest guy to guard on a basketball floor when he (Lee) is the best player is the point guard, because they are going to get the ball in his hands.”
After Miles Dixon hit one of two free throws to extend WSU’s advantage to 67-65 with 28 seconds left, Charlie Lee was fouled by Jerran Young on a 3-point attempt with 16 seconds to play. Lee calmly swished all three attempts to put the Vikings back on top 68-67.
“It was a very smart play for Charlie to shoot the ball then, because you’re down two and you’re going to try to take the first look that you can,” Donlon said. “If you miss, you want to have more time to prolong the game. If you wait until the clock goes down and you do miss and we get the rebound, you can’t prolong the game.”
With what appeared to be Wright State’s final chance to win the contest, Chrishawn Hopkins attacked the lane and dished to Yoho. With seven seconds showing on the clock, Yoho missed a contested fade away jumper from ten feet away. CSU grabbed the rebound and hit four more free throws down the stretch to seal the victory by a final score of 72-68.
The Vikings out-rebounded Wright State 17-6 in the second half, for an advantage of 31-22 in the game.
Cleveland State’s Anton Grady, who did not play in WSU’s 49-46 victory over the Vikings three weeks ago, recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Four Raiders scored in double figures: Young (15), Yoho (14), Darling (12), and Dixon (10).
The Raiders return home on Friday February 21 for a battle against the Detroit Titans. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:00 pm to accommodate an ESPNU broadcast.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By WSU Athletic Communications
Down most of the first half, the Wright State men’s basketball team combined for a 24-8 run to end that period and start the second half en route to a 77-67 Horizon League win over Youngstown State Wednesday night at WSU’s Nutter Center.
Back-to-back three from Ryan Weber gave the Penguins an early 8-2 advantage and YSU maintained the lead until a Jerran Young layup and two Cole Darling free throws gave the Raiders a 17-16 edge with 10:35 remaining in the first half.
Youngstown State, though, regained the lead with a Kendrick Perry three and eventually went up 27-20 on two Weber foul shots with 7:43 left.
The margin was still six at 29-23 following a Perry jumper at the 5:58 mark, but the rest of the half would be controlled by Wright State as the Raiders started their decisive run with six straight points, the final four coming on a layup and two free throws by JT Yoho.
After YSU’s Bobby Hain broke the string with a layup, a Young free throw, a Chrishawn Hopkins triple and a Darling basket gave the Raiders the lead for good at 35-31 heading into halftime.
Both teams shot the ball well in the opening 20 minutes as WSU was at 44 percent compared to 42 percent for the Penguins, but the Raiders also hit four of nine threes and were 11 of 14 at the foul line while Youngstown State was three of 11 from behind the arc and a perfect six for six at the stripe.
Following baskets from Yoho to start the second half, scores from Darling and AJ Pacher along two Darling foul shots extended the Raider lead to 47-37 with 16:04 to play. Two more free throws from Darling and Reggie Arceneaux made it 54-40 and YSU would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Wright State hit 12 of 20 shots after halftime and was 16 of 21 at the line during that stretch to end up at 27 of 35 for the game. Youngstown State, meanwhile, shot 46 percent for the game and was 17 of 18 at the line. The Raiders also led 25-13 in points off of turnovers despite just a 14-12 differential in turnovers for the game.
Darling led WSU with 20 points, including 10 of 12 free throws, while Hopkins had 11, Young 10 and Pacher 10. The four combined combined to give the Raiders 51 points off the bench compared to just seven for the Penguins. Yoho also reached double figures as he finished with 11.
Weber paced Youngstown State (13-11, 4-5 Horizon) with 21 points while Perry had 16 and Hain 12 along with nine rebounds.
Wright State (14-12, 6-5 Horizon) hosts Cleveland State on Saturday at 1:00, a game that will be televised on ESPN2.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By WSU Athletic Communications
The Wright State men’s basketball team jumped out to a 10-1 lead and never looked back in cruising to a 73-57 Horizon League win over Milwaukee Tuesday night at WSU’s Nutter Center.
After the Raiders got out to the quick 10-1 advantage just 3:25 into the contest, the Panthers closed to within five at 16-11 on a Kyle Kelm three-point play at the 8:14 mark of the first half. WSU, however, followed with a 12-3 burst, capped off by threes from Reggie Arceneaux and AJ Pacher, and closed out the period with a 39-21 lead on a three from JT Yoho.
Wright State shot 46 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, including four of eight three-pointers, and was perfect in nine free throw attempts while Milwaukee hit just six of 24 shots and was seven of 14 at the line.
UWM cut the deficit to 43-34 on a Matt Tiby layup with 14:44 remaining, but the Panthers would get no closer as the Raiders answered with seven straight points and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
WSU shot 45 percent for the game compared to 42 percent for Milwaukee, who shot 58 percent in the second half. The Raiders were 22 of 25 at the line while the Panthers were 14 of 24. Wright State also led 16-6 in points off of turnovers.
Jerran Young led the Raiders with 19 points off the bench on seven-of-10 shooting while Pacher had 12 and Cole Darling added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Kelm paced Milwaukee (13-8, 3-4 Horizon) with 16 points while Jordan Aaron had 15.
Wright State (13-9, 5-2 Horizon) now hits the road for three straight, starting on Saturday, January 25, with a 7:00 contest at Youngstown State.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Green Bay Phoenix took early control of this season’s Horizon League standings with a 79-69 victory over the Wright State Raiders, in a much-anticipated battle that featured the two teams picked by many to win the Horizon League championship.
“You can’t win championships in January,” Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle said after the game. “But you sure can lose them.”
With the victory, Green Bay (14-3, 4-0 Horizon League) captured their ninth-straight victory, and the third of their current four-game Horizon League road trip. Wright State (11-9, 3-2 HL) remained in second place with the loss.
“This was a really important game,” said Alec Brown, Green Bay’s 7-foot-1 NBA prospect. “We knew that if we could come in here and steal this game, it would be huge for us. We played our hearts out.”
Brown hadn’t practiced all week due to an ankle sprain, and his playing status for the game was questionable. But with three NBA scouts in the arena watching, Brown showed his durability and tolerance for pain with an outstanding performance. He finished the contest with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including 1-of-2 from behind the arc.
Wright State took its first and only lead of the game midway through the first half on a Jerran Young slam dunk to go up 21-19. The Phoenix answered the Raider threat — as was the case all night long — by responding with a bucket which ignited an 11-2 run, making it 30-23.
Wright State finished the final two minutes of the first half strong by scoring the half’s final seven points — five by Cole Darling and two by Miles Dixon — to go into the halftime locker room down 39-36. The Raiders must have felt extremely fortunate to trail by only three points because Green Bay had shot 61.5-percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Raiders 20-9 up to that point.
An AJ Pacher free throw coming out of the half, pulled Wright State to within 39-37, but Green Bay answered with a 9-0 run to take control again at 48-37.
After trading a few baskets, the Raiders roared back with a 9-0 run of their own, capped by a Pacher 3-pointer, to close within 55-54 with 10:16 left to play.
However, as was the case all night long, the Green Bay answered the challenge, holding onto their lead, and building it back up to 61-56, 71-63, and finally 79-69.
Wright State head coach Billy Donlon was surprised that the Phoenix were able to exert their will over his team. “The way that we lost tonight is extremely humbling because I value toughness,” Donlon said. “They get an A+ and we get an F.”
Wright State hit 27-of-55 shot attempts for the game for 49-percent. Green Bay shot 60-percent (28-of-47).
“We wanted them to make 3-point shots to beat us, but they only took four,” Donlon said. “So never mind shooting and missing … they only took four.”
Alec Brown led the Phoenix with 24 points. Keifer Sykes, Green Bay’s outstanding guard added 18, while Greg Mays and Jordan Fouse chipped in with 14 and 10 respectively.
Five Raiders scored in double figures: Reggie Arceneaux (17), Jerran Young (13), Cole Darling (13), Miles Dixon (12), and AJ Pacher (10).
With the victory over Wright State, Green Bay leads the all-time series 25-24. The Raiders lead 18-9 in games played in Dayton.
With a schedule that only the Horizon League can concoct, the Raiders return home on Tuesday night (Jan. 21 tip-off at 7:00) for their third contest in less than 100 hours to battle the Milwaukee Panthers. But before that, Wright State will travel to northeast Ohio for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Cleveland State Vikings (Sun. Jan. 19 tip-off at 1:00).
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar