On the bus ride home, Vaughn Duggins remembered, all was somber — until it wasn’t.
History changed, all for the betterment of Wright State, with a 15-minute delay.
“It was the first time I ever celebrated after a loss,” Duggins said recently on his induction weekend into the WSU athletic Hall of Fame.
On Thursday night, Feb. 22, 2007, the Raiders expected to finish their regular basketball season at Youngstown State with a 10th straight victory to seal the top seed and guarantee home court for all their Horizon League tournament games.
All WSU had to do was beat a 12-15 Youngstown State team on a cold, snowy night at YSU’s Beeghly Center. Over in Indianapolis, Butler was hosting Loyola-Chicago, 19-9, but not expecting to lose. Butler, after all, was ranked No. 15 in the nation.
That game’s tip was 15 minutes after Wright State’s.
Earlier in the season, WSU beat YSU 62-49 in the Nutter Center.
All this came to mind several days ago when YSU visited the Nutter Center to finish WSU’s regular-season home schedule. It brought back a head-throbbing flashback.
It turned out, in 2007not only did the Raiders have problems, so did Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon and I.
Wright State lost, 72-57, and while Arch and I began writing our obituaries of a team that had apparently ceded the No. 1 tournament seed to Butler, it was with the understanding Butler would now host the tournament.
All the Bulldogs had to do was beat Loyola.
Just to make sure, we turned our computers to the streaming play-by-play of the Butler/Loyola game, only to find it much closer than expected. A frantic call to the newspaper desk gained us a few extra minutes of writing time, since much more than just the WSU score was involved.
Of course, at YSU, the gymnasium had cleared out and the custodians were pushing the bleacher sections into the storage space under the upper stands. The only piece of scorers’ table left was where Arch and I were sitting, and he somehow not only convinced the custodian closest to us to give us a few more minutes, he had the guy avidly watching the Butler/Loyola game on his computer.
Against all odds, Loyola won, leaving Arch and I to compose total rewrites in just a few minutes time.
First, we called the coaches on the WSU bus, where the background noise was total bedlam. Players in the dumps for losing to YSU were suddenly revived. They were spared and not only went on to win the Horizon League tournament at the Nutter Center, but beat Butler in the championship game to earn the coveted NCAA berth.
Back at the Beeghley Center, YSU’s home court, the custodian muttered congratulations to Wright State, but my recollection is Arch and I finished our work with computers in our laps. That section of table where we were sitting needed to be folded away.
Butler had another league game to play, which it eventually won to tie WSU for the regular-season title, but WSU had the tiebreaker. Had the tournament been played at Butler’s Hinkle Field House, the outcome may have been different.
Ironically, Loyola nearly pulled a duplicate upset, taking Butler to overtime in a semifinal tournament game before losing by one. Wright State easily reached the championship game, where the Raiders faced Butler. The teams split their two games during the regular season, each winning at home.
Wright State won to earn a berth in the NCAA, but lost to Pittsburgh in the first round. Butler also advanced to the NCAA, making it to the Sweet 16.
The Raiders have a chance to make the NCAA again this year, but have to win the league tournament to do so. Lets hope Youngstown State isn’t waiting in ambush.
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