Last time I went to the XL Center for a Connecticut Huskies basketball game, the women’s team lost to Britney Griner and No. 1 Baylor, 76-70. The atmosphere that night was electric. Granted, it was two of the three best teams in women’s hoops, but the student section was packed and rowdy and there were 16,000+ making noise the entire game.
Last night, for a men’s game against the Cincinnati Bearcats (19-8, 7-7 Big East), the crowd was pitiful. The student section was less than half-filled and the crowd was loud but once all night, in overtime, when Shabazz Napier went off for 11 points. The empty student section really took me aback–they get transportation to the games–for free!
There are only five games left–two at home–the UConn this season, so the lack of support is kind of shocking. Napier is a possible NBA lottery pick, so his time in the blue and white might be coming to an end. It might be hard to get excited for a team that won’t advance past the regular season, but at 18-7 (8-5 Big East), the Huskies are a very good basketball team. They would most certainly be a tournament team if they were eligible. That coupled with the fact that they are Connecticut’s major sports team (besides the women) would lead many to believe they’d get a better turnout for a home game. There were 11,000+ in attendance but it was a quiet 11,000+.
Head coach Kevin Ollie, generally not the most animated of coaches, was just the opposite last night. He was stomping his feet, clapping his hands and encouraging his Huskies–unlike the crowd. He should be in the discussion for Big East Coach of the Year after what he’s been able to accomplish this season.
The first half was an up-and-down game that featured plenty of scoring and fast-breaks. The second half was a bore as Cincinnati erased a three-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Huskies 21-18. Then came overtime.
Just fifteen seconds into the extra stanza, Napier buried a three. And then another. And then another. The crowd was going wild and everyone poured into the streets of Hartford happy with the win.
Except me. I’m still having a hard time figuring out why the UConn faithful aren’t supporting the Huskies like they should. Maybe the next home game– on-campus at Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday–against No. 11 Georgetown will be a bigger draw.