Afterward, Coach Billy Donlon and some of Wright State’s veteran players talked mostly about how their team had gotten its identity back against Manchester University, the overwhelmed Division III school from Indiana it routed 83-33 in a game that wasn’t even that close Monday night at the Nutter Center.
“We wanted to get to playing Wright State defense,” said senior guard Matt Vest. “Our identity is flying around, getting in the gaps, guarding people, turning them over — that’s who we are as a team.”
The Raiders didn’t show that at all last Wednesday at Georgetown and were roughed up 88-70. They did play defense Saturday at DePaul, for 37 minutes, then they “started to play the scoreboard not each possession,” said Donlon.
His team blew a late seven-point lead and lost, 81-72.
So enter poor Manchester, a late fill-in on the schedule, Donlon intimated, after a Division I school backed out.
“If I told you the teams that said ‘no,’ ” Donlon said. “What is unfair, we play people on the road. We won’t back out of a challenge, but we can’t help it that people won’t come here.”
He told how Cincinnati, Ohio University, Idaho, Air Force and some other schools visited once, but couldn’t be lured back.
“We’ll get back to that again,” he said. “This was just a challenging year for scheduling. (Tonight’s game) we had one option: Either not play at all or play this one. And the way we lost to DePaul, the guys needed to get to a game quickly to get the bitter taste out of their mouths.”
And Manchester served as the perfect breath mint, though at times this looked like the Washington Generals playing the Harlem Globetrotters.
Manchester — which lost by 52 to Central Michigan in an exhibition earlier this month — made two of 20 three-point attempts. The Spartans turned the ball over 25 times. The Raiders stole the ball from them 17 times.
Much of that was WSU’’s relentless defense, but you also have to consider the Raiders were bigger, quicker, more athletic, more aggressive and playing at home.
Still, defense will be Wright State’s signature all season. But Monday night the Raiders also revealed an exclamation point.
It was Steven Davis, the 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman with the dreadlock thatch bobbing behind his head who provided some highlight-reel breathlessness in an otherwise ho-hum yawner.
Eight minutes into the game he stole the ball and went the length of the court, scoring on a one-handed tomahawk dunk that had the crowd of about 3,500 roaring. In the second half he skied over two Spartan players to gather in Reggie Arceneaux’s alley-oop pass and slam down another.
Yet, what most impressed Donlon afterward was Davis’ line in the box score: Seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and just one turnover in 29 minutes.
What makes it more impressive is that Davis hadn’t played organized basketball in over a year and a half.
Coming out of Indianapolis Manual High School, where he averaged 20.9 points per game as a senior, he needed to boost his college academics and spent last year at WSU doing that.
He wasn’t allowed to play, practice with the team or sit on the bench during games.
“The level of improvement he’s shown since September this year had been pretty positive,” Donlon said. “He has to play for us this year definitely … and he will.”
But to do that, Davis knows what he has to do.
“The dunks, that’s just athleticism,” he said with a grin. “The toughest thing is playing tough-nosed defense the way we do here. That’s who we are.”