When the Ohio State University women’s basketball team came to the Pit, the largest crowd they had seen all season was about 8,000 people.
On Wednesday night in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament championship game, the Buckeyes were greeted to a sellout crowd of 18,018 Lobo fans.
The sellout was only the third sellout for the women in school history, with the other two sellout coming on Jan.23, 1999 against UTEP and Feb.5, 2000 against Brigham Young University.
“The crowd was deafening,” sophomore center Jordan Adams said. “We went into halftime with our ears ringing.”
Wednesday night’s attendance was the fourth-largest crowd to watch a women’s college basketball game this season.
The University of Tennessee holds the top three spots, including a crowd of 24,046 people to watch the Volunteers battle the University of Connecticut Feb.1.
The UNM women’s basketball has seen an amazing climb in attendance over the past few years.
In 1994-95, the Lobos were drawing about 400 per game, but since head coach Don Flanagan has taken over, that number has risen.
This year’s average attendance of 8,712 per game is the second highest in school history. Only the 1999-2000 team had a better turnout.
This year, UNM is ranked fifth in the country in average attendance, behind leader Tennessee, which draws about 15,500 per game. However, UNM is third is the nation in total attendance with 182,961 fans coming out to see the Lobos in 21 games at the Pit this season.
“I have been a supporter of the men’s team since I came to Albuquerque in 1954,” Lobo fan Bill Kanasin said. “ I am becoming a Lobo women’s fan the more and more I see them.”
But it’s not the novelty of a winning program that has fans coming to the games.
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“With the style of ball they play here, it is just so exciting coming out here and watching the girls give everything they have for the fans,” UNM fan Betty Thompson said.
For many Lobo fans, they had only seen a few of the women’s team’s games, but many were impressed with what they saw.
“Their awesome, they play very aggressive, I wish the men would play as aggressive as the women,” said Joe Candalaria. “I am definitely going to watch more of them next year.”
Even the Ohio State players were amazed at the fan support and the noise the Lobo fans made throughout the game.
“ I thought the crowd was great, I think they stood up the entire game,” said Buckeye guard and WNIT MVP Jamie Lewis.” It was simply awesome it was a great experience to play here; I wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else.”