Basketball Notes: Fans pack Diddle Arena once again

Big Red crowd surfs up the student section during the second half of the game. An announced crowd of 6,407 fans showed up to Diddle Arena for WKU’s 75-66 win over South Alabama. It was the largest home attendance of the season.

Cole Claybourn

If the trend continues, WKU might have to start turning people away at the door.

For the second time in interim head coach Ray Harper’s stint as head coach, a new home attendance record was set with a crowd of 6,407 — more 1,000 more than the previous high set less than a month ago.

The crowd has come to see a once free-falling basketball program try to make an upward climb back to a program full of pride and most of all, wins.

The fans have made it obvious what’s drawing them back to the Hill — a change. 

It’s a change marked by a mid-season coaching switch that’s resulted in a revitalized program that appears to be playing with a sense of swagger. 

To show their support for the change and perhaps hoping to provide a public vote for the interim change to remain a permanent thing, fans waved cardboard cut-outs of Harper and chanted “We want Harper!” as the game neared its end.

Harper was as thankful for the support as anyone.

“Somebody’s going to be hanging those out in their gardens somewhere to keep the birds or whatever away,” Harper joked after the game. “I think my mom enjoyed it. But again, I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from the students, the entire community. That’s what WKU basketball is all about.”

Harper called the large crowd the “sixth man” for WKU on Saturday.

Freshman forward George Fant agreed.

“Our last couple home games, every home game our crowds have been getting bigger and bigger. That’s just feeding us,” he said. “We’ll go on our runs and we here our fans screaming, it just makes you want to go out there and go harder.”

Gordon survives scary fall

Derrick Gordon has never been one to shy away from contact.

That almost got him into trouble on Saturday against South Alabama.

The freshman guard went full speed after a loose ball near midcourt against two Jaguar players and ended up flying over the scorers table after ball. He hit his chest directly on the corner of the steel aisles in the first row of the bleachers.

He laid there for about two minutes before being helped off the court by trainers. He got up and headed to the bench to a standing ovation and the crowd chanting his name.

Gordon wasn’t made available after the game, but his teammates talked about the scary situation that caused the Diddle Arena crowd to go dead silent.

“I thought he was just going to jump right back up, but he was down for a minute,” junior guard Jamal Crook said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, hold on.’ I just ran over to see if he was alright. He’s superman.”

Said freshman forward George Fant: “Oh yeah, that was crazy. It scared me. Hit his chest I think, but he said he’s pretty good.”

Gordon came back in about two minutes later. He finished the game with four points and six rebounds in 33 minutes.

Following the game, Gordon tweeted: “IM A WARRIOR!!!”

Fant comes up big down low

While Crook was torching up the nets for a career-high 24 points, George Fant was steadily grinding out a good stat line of his own.

The freshman forward finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on only missed just one shot the whole game.

“I thought he was terrific,” Harper said. “Two big offensive put-backs there in the second half and he was physical, he was aggressive. Twelve and eight — he was the one guy that went and got us four offensive rebounds and that’s key to get you some extra opportunities.”