Whenever a top five team rolls into town, there is bound to be a huge turnout by the fans. Just the possibility of storming the court following a huge upset is enough to get even the most modest of Redbird fans to attend. After all, any team can win on any given day, and a packed arena could often be just what it takes to sway a victory in the underdog’s favor.
So when coach Dan Muller called for a “Red Out” on Wednesday night, students didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere was absolutely electrifying, unlike any crowd since the annual Bradley matchup in 2010.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the most people I’ve ever seen at an Illinois State game in fifteen years, it was insane,” local Redbird fan Nathan Titus commented.
And for the first half of the game, it seemed as though the unlikely upset was actually possible. Wichita State played as though they were clearly affected by the noise, committing several early turnovers that allowed Illinois State to take the lead for the majority of the half. Even when Wichita State was able to tie it, the Redbirds were able to fight back and increase the lead by three before half time. Fans were ecstatic.
What followed was a mostly forgettable second half that was disappointing to say the least. Early turnovers and fouls quieted the crowd and after a flagrant foul that saw a Shockers lead reach double digits, all of the momentum in Redbird Arena was extinguished.
Yet because of the obvious disappointment of a tough loss it is easy to forget many of the positives that could be seen through such a game. It is because of these positives that make the continuing of such great student attendance to these games so important.
The Redbirds are still a very young team. Last year having seen veterans Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown graduate, it left a huge void and had ended an era of Redbird basketball. This season has thus been a transition period with a team that is very much still growing. However, there are many upsides of this team which should make plenty of students excited.
There are no seniors on this squad. Transfer student Daishon Knight has been fantastic, and players like Reggie Lynch and Zach Lofton form a young core of players that will continue to develop into stars. Even Dan Muller is still growing as a coach. With this foundation the future is exciting, which makes the need for more student attendance incredibly important.
Red Alert deserves all the credit in the world for drawing the huge crowd that attended the Wichita State game. The student section was truly remarkable. However, students need to be motivated to attend games other than ones that feature ranked opponents.
Such crowds could give Illinois State one of the best home court advantages in the Missouri Valley. Even during Wednesday’s game it could be seen. Turnovers are largely mental and communication errors and the amount that the Shockers created could most definitely be attributed to the enormous amount of fans that were cheering their heads off.
As the Redbirds grow as a team, the student section should also grow in number. To bring such energy to each and every game would make Illinois State a force to be reckoned with in the Missouri Valley. This obviously goes for every sport as well. These players work too hard to let their efforts go unseen by the majority of the student population, and they deserve the amazing audience every home game that was present Wednesday night.