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Sunday, March 29, 2009

KU women must travel to New Mexico for Elite Eight

The KU bench cheers after a basket by Danielle McCray against Arkansas Thursday, March 26, 2009, at Allen Fieldhouse.

The KU bench cheers after a basket by Danielle McCray against Arkansas Thursday, March 26, 2009, at Allen Fieldhouse.

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KU vs. New Mexico

  • Monday, March 30, 2009, 8 p.m.
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When it comes to WNIT basketball, money talks, and everything else more or less walks.

WNIT officials select sites they believe possess the greatest potential to draw a large crowd. Thus, sending Kansas University to New Mexico for an Elite Eight game Monday night was a no-brainer.

In WNIT Sweet 16 games, for example, New Mexico drew more fans than every other site, including Kansas.

“They’ve even outdrawn some NCAA sites,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said.

And the Lobos aren’t even playing in their home arena.

New Mexico opened WNIT play with a 72-44 thrashing of Southern University at The Pit, the school’s on-campus facility in Albuquerque. The announced crowd was a little more than 3,000.

However, with The Pit committed to a rodeo event last week, the Lobos’ second-round game against Nebraska was shifted to the Santa Ana Star Center in suburban Rio Rancho.

And, as it turned out, the Lobos lured more fans to that supposedly neutral arena than they did to The Pit. Nearly 4,500 showed up to watch New Mexico trip the Cornhuskers, 54-43.

Then with The Pit still in a rodeo configuration Friday night, the Lobos returned to the Santa Ana Star Center for a Sweet 16 clash with Oregon State.

This time, 4,759 fans showed up to watch New Mexico squeeze the Beavers, 61-56, and NMU coach Don Flanagan was quick to praise the rowdy throng.

“I think noise-wise, it was Pit level,” Flanagan said. “The Pit is one of the noisiest places you can play, and that was a great simulation of The Pit.”

Although The Pit is available this week, the Lobos have opted — not surprisingly — to play Kansas in their new home instead.

“I really think we'll get more fans for the next game,” Flanagan said. “It's a lot of fun to play here.”

Whether Kansas will have a lot of fun playing in the Santa Ana Star Center remains to be seen. The Jayhawks have compiled a glossy 15-3 record in Allen Fieldhouse while their road mark is just 4-9.

“It is what it is,” Henrickson said of the decision to send Kansas to New Mexico. “We’ll go out there and compete. We’ll play our tails off.”

Monday’s winner will meet the winner of today’s Indiana-Illinois State game on Wednesday night in a WNIT semifinal.

Although Kansas drew fewer than 2,000 fans each night for its WNIT victories over Creighton and Arkansas, the Jayhawks (20-13) likely would earn another home game if they knock off the Lobos (25-10).

Comments

cosima 10 years, 9 months ago

We Lobo fans look forward to seeing you Monday. But for the record, we would much rather be at the Pit--there would be many more than 4,800 fans there. We averaged about 8,000 fans per home game, one of the best in the country.
However, the Pit is NOT available because a Ty Murray bullriding event is scheduled and the Pit floor is covered with dirt. After this, the Pit goes into renovation mode. So safe travels to your team and best wishes.

Cody Stumma 10 years, 9 months ago

Its just a shame that these games are not on TV...

And now I hope to expect a good game against you Lobos.

Phillbert 10 years, 9 months ago

Cosima - thank you for your message and congratulations on your team's success and ability to draw crowds.

I wish that Lawrence - a supposed basketball Mecca - turned out in the same way to support KU's women's team and really all Jayhawk teams, not just men's basketball (and lately football.)

cosima 10 years, 9 months ago

Yo Phillbert--we love our Lobos. We thought the team would go to the big dance, but all things considered, this has been great for all of us. Your Lady 'Hawks will not hear any boos when introduced, only applause--we save those for the refs. Take heart--when Coach Flanagan took over, we had nine season's tix holders--he had the team go into the stands and thank the fans for showing up. It's been a long, hard road and I hope KU women's fans can catch the spark soon.

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