Men’s Basketball: Despite loss, Raider fans show up big when it mattered most
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In his post-game press conference Raiders head coach Billy Donlon compared his team to the Buffalo Bills of early 90s – a team that made it to the precipice of a championship but never won one.
“Sometimes that just basketball,” Donlon said. “Nobody wants to hear it.”
Added Donlon: “I’m very proud of our guys. I’m very proud of our team.”
Raider fans should be proud of their team, too.
Like the Bills, the Raiders had numerous chances to capture a championship, and like the Bills, victory fell through the Raiders hands.
The heartbreaking 69-63 loss Wright State suffered Tuesday night in the Horizon League Championship will be felt by Donlon, his players and arguably every Raider fan that attended the game.
That much is a given.
WSU lost a physical battle inside against UMW’s Kyle Kelm and Matt Tiby. Horizon League Tournament MVP Jordan Aaron kept the Raiders off balance most of the night with his incredible agility.
The Raiders fought valiantly to win an uphill battle the entire night. In the end, not enough key shots went in and Milwaukee was just too strong.
But what may go unnoticed, or simply be forgotten about in the wake of WSU’s defeat, is the overwhelming turnout from the WSU fan base and the Fairborn community.
The official attendance for the Horizon League Championship was 7,784, according to the box score, which seems like a very accurate number looking around the Nutter Center.
For a student section that seldom has a consistent presence at men’s basketball games, the Raider Rowdies made sure to show up in droves and attempt to impact the game as much as they could.
WSU students treated the game like a party and left an indelible mark in an increasingly festive atmosphere.
There was a man wearing a green-painted mask and a cape. One student was nearly covered in green paint from head to toe. Some students held up Fat Head signs of Miley Cyrus and Jay Z and even a vuvuzela could be heard in the around Section 222.
Simply put, the Nutter Center put on one hell of a show, and in short order. The job WSU administration did to get its arena prepped for the bright lights of ESPN should not be understated. Those folks had just over 48 hours to accommodate nearly 8,000 fans – a number the Nutter Center is not used to seeing unless an A-list musician comes to town.
Often in sports, the only thing that matters, especially to fans, is the final score. This time, WSU did not come out on the winning end in that category.
But what should matter most to those who helped pack the Nutter Center last night is that their favorite team used every ounce of energy that its raucous crowd provided.
The Buffalo Bills were often labeled as losers for not winning its last game.
That’s not how these Raiders should be remembered.