Hysteria prepares WKU for home-heavy schedule

Jeremy Chisenhall

Hilltopper Hysteria gave the WKU men’s basketball team a taste of a home atmosphere heading into the 2017-18 season, something the Hilltoppers will be experiencing a good deal of with 16 regular season games and two exhibitions in Diddle Arena this year.

The Hysteria crowd saw a high-scoring 15-minute Red vs. White scrimmage from the men’s team, as the White team beat the Red team 52-38. Graduate transfer Dwight Coleby led the game in scoring with 20 points on 10-12 shooting, many of which were dunks. He also had four rebounds. Junior Jared Savage led the White team in points with 11. Both sides threw down an abundance of alley-oops, much to the excitement of a slight but noisy crowd.

“The crowd got us going. I wasn’t expecting it to be as loud as it was, and it was really fun,” freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth said. “I’m really excited to see all the fans come in and show us support. I’m ready to start this season now.”

Hollingsworth had 10 points and five assists for the Red squad on Friday night.

WKU has been good at home historically, as the all-time win percentage in Diddle is 77.9 percent. Defending home court was the Hilltoppers’ strong suit last season. Despite a losing record of 15-17, they posted an 11-3 record at home, including a perfect 5-0 record in non-conference play and a 6-3 record against Conference USA opponents. Half of their 18 home games this year will be in-conference.

The evidence of better play at home wasn’t just in the record, but in the statistics as well. At home WKU averaged 74.9 points per game, shooting 46 percent from the field, and 37 percent from 3-point range. They held opponents to 71.1 points per game on 45 percent shooting when at home.

On the road and in neutral site games, the Hilltoppers didn’t fare as well. They averaged just 64.4 PPG on 42 percent shooting, while giving up 72.6 PPG on 45 percent shooting.

And for WKU’s only returning starter, senior forward Justin Johnson, he was better at home than on the road last year too. Johnson was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.5 PPG, but averaged nearly 2 PPG more at home than on the road. He also shot a better percentage from the field, averaged more rebounds, and blocked more shots at home last year.

But despite the better play at home, WKU’s crowd size wasn’t huge last year. Opponents beat them in average attendance as Diddle Arena’s attendance was 3,915 per game over 14 games, which is just over half of the venue’s max capacity of 7,326. The largest crowd of the year was the team’s final home game of the season, as 4,823 fans watched WKU beat Rice 79-72. For WKU’s road games in 2016-17, opponents averaged 4,123 viewers over 16 games.

Head coach Rick Stansbury said that home court advantage would be big for his team this year, and he wants to have a good home atmosphere.

“It’s big to sell this place out,” Stansbury said. “Selling this arena out, and having this home court advantage with the amount of home games we have is very important.”

Stansbury also expressed his desire to sell out Diddle Arena for WKU’s first home game during his speech to the crowd at Hysteria.

WKU’s next time in action will be a scrimmage against Campbellsville on Nov. 1 in Diddle Arena. That’s the first of two scrimmages before the Hilltoppers tip-off the regular season with a home game against Missouri State on Nov. 10.

Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.