In the battle of the mid-majors, Wichita State comes out on top


Brian Hayes

Dayton’s Charles Cooke shouts getting a foul in the first half against at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Mar. 17, 17, 2017)

Dayton’s Scoochie Smith was running away with the game. He had scored 15 points on six baskets —  he had more than half of his team’s points entering halftime, where he and the senior backcourt of Kyle Davis and Charles Cooke led by two points.

The three seniors had a mission; it started their first day on campus. They wanted to make it to March and reek havoc on any team who was supposed to beat them. Their crafty, up-tempo style of play was supposed to exhaust any team for 40 minutes. Friday night, they couldn’t pull together all the pieces to hold on to the lead — one that changed 14 times.

No. 7 seed Dayton lost to No. 10 seed Wichita State upset the Flyers in the first round. Dayton lost to a No. 10 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

Smith, shooting final free throws as the Flyers tried to prolong the game clock, heard his name called for the last time.

“It was a good feeling, a little bittersweet,” Smith said after he heard his name called as he walked off the court. “We’re living for the kids back at home from where we come from, giving them faith. Where we come from, people don’t get this opportunity to play four years of D-I basketball in the NCAA Tournament.”

Smith said a back-and-forth battle made the exit out of Dayton made him feel better about his career.

“Makes you feel a little better about yourself, going out giving it your all,” Smith said. “Today was just a bad moment. But we did so much in my four years being here, we revived Dayton basketball, and I couldn’t be happier.”