COLUMBUS (AP) – For the first time since 1988, Dayton and Ohio State will meet on the basketball court.
But the game is in the quarterfinals in the NIT, not the tournament the Flyers (23-10) and Buckeyes (21-13) had been hoping for.
Matt Terwilliger, an Ohio State senior who grew up 18 miles from Dayton in Troy, recognizes the game takes on a different stature because of both teams’ rabid fans.
“I know from people around here it’s going to be pretty serious because we haven’t played since, what, the ’80s?,” he said.
OSU coach Thad Matta prefers to play down the in-state rivalry.
“At this stage, we (both teams) have played so many games, it’s more along the lines of the winner moves on and the team that doesn’t win, their season is over,” he said.
Each team was in contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
Three of the Flyers’ losses came to Sweet 16 qualifier Xavier, and almost all of their 10 setbacks came when they were without 6-foot-8 freshman star Chris Wright, out since Jan. 9 with a broken bone in his right ankle. Wright is back – he scored eight points in 10 minutes of Monday night’s 55-48 victory at Illinois State – and the Flyers really feel they have a score to settle.
“We’ve been playing pretty well,” UD coach Brian Gregory said. “We’re 6-1 now in March.”
The Buckeyes believe they were victimized by those who said the Big Ten was down. Yet the conference has Wisconsin and Michigan State in the NCAA regional finals.
“We’re just putting all the pieces of the puzzle together,” swingman David Lighty said.