Crowd could be important factor for Toppers

Josh Buckman

Since this year’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament is being held in Diddle Arena, one might think Western’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have an edge.

But even though the men’s team has won 36 consecutive home games, they believe there is little, if any, advantage to having the tournament at Western.

“The team has to come together and play no matter how many people are in the gym,” freshman forward Jamaal Brown said. “The building doesn’t make you win a game.”

While it may seem strange to think of the home court as a disadvantage, the fact is, no team hosting the SBC tournament has won since 1991.

And though Coach Dennis Felton does not believe that having the tournament at Diddle will give the Hilltoppers any advantage, he still hopes for a capacity crowd at every game. But he also cautions that a good crowd could help the visiting team.

“(The crowd) can energize the home team, but a good crowd can energize the other team,” Felton said.

Unlike the men’s team, the women’s team believes that having the SBC tournament in Bowling Green will be very important for the team.

The Lady Toppers believe the crowd can carry them to their first conference tournament title since 1995.

“I think that when you have the crowd on your side that it pumps you up to make you play harder and make you play more effective, both offensively and defensively,” junior guard Leslie Logsdon said.

The team also believes that staying home will benefit the team. Rather than sitting on a bus or in a plane for several hours, the Lady Toppers will be able to continue their normal routine.

Throughout the season, attendance for Western’s games has been among the highest in the Sun Belt behind only Arkansas State. Junior guard Elisha Ford credits this with the team’s strong showing this season and efforts to restore the team to national prominence.

“Everybody’s looking forward to us girls getting back to where it used to be: in the top 25 and the final four,” Ford said. “And I think the fans are really there to support us because they know we’re trying. They know the coaching staff is giving all they have in recruiting, and I think that has a lot to do with attendance.”

Fans appear to be excited. Many have purchased tickets in hopes their presence can affect the outcome.

“It really shows the support for the team,” Bowling Green resident Ginger Cleary said. “It gets the fans more excited, the larger crowd we have, and when the fans are excited it helps pump up the team and just shows the support we have.”

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]