So last night as soon as the first half ended so did my internet connection. To make matters worse, my phone died. In case you missed it Indiana State fell at home to #2 Wichita State, 65-58.
Despite Indiana State losing the game on the court, they, the fans in the crowd (including nearly 2,700 Indiana State Students) and the community won. Yes, some may see it as unfortunate that the Sycamores couldn’t pull off the biggest upset in school history. But the experience everyone took home from that game was worth the price of admission.
9,245 was the announced attendance for the 10,200 seat Hulman Center, like any good media member you subtract anywhere from 500 to 950 from that and that’s your total. Either way it was incredible the amount of support the Wabash Valley showed the Indiana State men’s team. I’ll admit, it helps when the second ranked team in the nation comes to town but sometimes that won’t even get folks to the game. What last night did was give Indiana State a fighting chance in what has been an uphill battle to get people in the seats.
For years Indiana State athletics has done almost everything to get people to show up, whether it was a white out, a black out, gray out, hell they even gave away free tickets. It still has never been enough. No matter what happens folks just seem to come up with an excuse as to why they shouldn’t go.
“Well, it’s snowing”
“They are going to lose”
“They already lost to [insert bottom of the Valley team here]”
“8:05? Gee that’s late isn’t it?”
“The Colts are on”
“My parole officer won’t let me go”
Okay so maybe I haven’t heard that last one… yet.
For years there’s always been a hill, no wait, a mountain to climb. Sometimes the mountain has gotten taller by Indiana State’s own volition. Losing to the basement teams of the MVC won’t get fans in the stands and that’s on the Sycamores. But, none of that mattered last night.
The Wabash Valley was pounded with snow Tuesday night, Indiana State lost to Southern Illinois by 19, two games prior and yet none of that prevented the largest crowd in almost a decade.
I’d be a fool not to point out yet again that Wichita State is in the top five in the county. Did that play a part? Absolutely. Can the Wabash Valley put that aside and show up again on Sunday when Indiana State hosts Drake at 3:05 ET? Probably not.
While you debate whether or not you want to go see that game on Sunday let me point one thing out to you. Last night around the five minute mark of the second half with a one or two possession ball game, Wichita State was whistled for a shot clock violation and they had no idea what was going on. They were lost. Wichita State doesn’t have shot clock violations. Wichita State doesn’t get rattled by the crowd. Wichita State doesn’t get lost on the floor.
This is the same team who plays in the most hostile environment in the Missouri Valley and a team that handled the pressures and excitement of the national tournament all the way to the Final Four. That’s not something that happens every day, you don’t just go around trying to rattle the Shockers and it have an effect on them.
With all that said, I don’t buy into the theory of home crowds making a difference. The attention that is paid to the Seahawks 12th Man, makes me want to puke. The team with the best players wins 9.7 times out of 10 and although it was a near packed house last night the team with the better players won. Do teams who have better players and win often have better attendance? Of course, but I’d be going against everything I believe in if I told you that you going to the game on Sunday will make Indiana State beat Drake. If Indiana State is better than Drake they will win.
But I will say this, wasn’t it fun to be a part of a crowd like that? Why not do it again?
Oh by the way…
1) I have to applaud the student section for showing up, I think that’s what impressed me most.
2) Late in the game Dawon Cummings was shooting a free throw and the crowd faded from a hum to complete silence before Cummings was ready to release, that was pretty cool.
3) Despite the lead getting to as high as 11, the game never seemed out of reach. Even at 11 points it seemed like a one possession game. Coach Lansing and I agreed in the post-game presser that the fans did a great job of staying in the game (more on the presser in #6).
4) Hulman Center HAS to do something about their wireless internet, it’s an embarrassing problem that they’ve had for years now.
5) An out of town guest asked me if the folks who pay the most for their tickets (sideline on the floor) really sit in cafeteria chairs? It’s sad, fork up the extra cash and purchase padded chairs. Stop embarrassing yourselves.
6) The post-game presser was one of the more embarrassing things I have ever seen (and trust me I’ve been in and round some embarrassing things). When ISU players come to sit on the podium they’re instructed to wear Indiana State garb, last night Jake Odum and Manny Arop did not. Athletics Director Ron Prettyman noticed it when Manny came in wearing a zip up hoodie with the Canadian flag on it. Manny and Jake are both seniors and should know better but at the same time if it bothers Ron so much he should have gone up to Manny and told him to change his shirt. Instead Ron chose to go and tell Coach Lansing about it in the hallway. Ron then came back into the media room followed by Coach Lansing poking his head in to stop the presser mid question and called both Odum and Arop into the hallway where I heard “Are you kidding me”. None of the media really knew what was going on, I did only because I was sitting on the side and saw the entire thing unfold. Khristian Smith came in and answered questions and while he did so, I could hear Coach Lansing yelling at Arop and Odum. It wasn’t pretty. Have players been told to wear ISU gear? Yes. Should they know better? Yes. Did they deserve to get yelled at? Yes. Should this have been taken care of well before the presser started? Yes. Should Ron have taken care of the matter himself and not made a big scene out of it? Yes. I am willing to bet Ron didn’t mean for that to unfold like it did. Coach Lansing was crushed by the loss and probably mad, going and telling him that something like that was happening wass only going to add to the rage. Ron, did you really think he wasn’t going to go in there and say something? It was embarrassing for Ron, Coach Lansing, the players and all those in attendance.