ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lobos Credit Fans for Their Marathon of Noise
The Pit earned its reputation Tuesday morning.
In front of a national TV audience, 14,277 boisterous fans who held strong well past 2 a.m. Tuesday, showed the venue is still one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. The Lobos say the crowd was very much a factor during UNM’s come-from-behind 86-81 win over Davidson as part of ESPN’s 24-hour basketball marathon of games.
“The crowd was phenomenal,” UNM coach Steve Alford said. “I just can’t say enough good things about our crowd. I thought our kids were playing hard, but we were just getting ourselves beat and the crowd just never gave up. They just continued to work for us. Then we got a little bit of a rhythm and then the crowd went to a whole other level. It was just a great atmosphere, a great environment.”
But it wasn’t just the biased hometown coach heaping praise on the cherry-clad Lobo fans.
ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf wrote: “The Lobos fed off the energy in The Pit and surged in the second half as they secured an 86-81 win.”
Miles Simon, a former national champion from the University of Arizona who was the color commentator during the national broadcast, sent out on Twitter during the game: “It’s rocking in THE PIT!!! Can barely eat (sic) myself think.”
Asked by a Twitter follower after the game what Simon was most impressed with, Simon responded with, “Crowd and the comeback.”
The play-by-play man calling the game, Dave Flemming, who is one of the radio voices of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, also took to Twitter to express his opinion of the game.
“Well that was the most fun I’ve ever had at 2 a.m. … at least while working,” Flemming tweeted.
UNM officials made a concerted effort to get fans to show up despite the late tipoff time.
The school realized many of the roughly 11,000 season-ticket holders might not be able to make the game and still show up for Tuesday morning jobs. Anticipating that, UNM pleaded with those not attending to give their tickets to friends, co-workers or even donate them back the school.
UNM also held a balloon glow before the game, had live music, cheap food and other activities in a late-night tailgate event in the Pit parking lot prior to opening the Pit doors at 10:30 p.m. By 11 p.m., a full hour before tipoff, the student section on the north side of the arena was almost full from court side to the upper concourse.
Through the first nine games of the 12-game, 24-hour marathon slate of basketball contests as part of ESPN’s made-for TV event, the Pit was the largest venue and by far had the largest home crowd.
The 2 p.m. game between Butler and Xavier, which had a 4 p.m. local start time at Cincinnati Cintas Center, had 9,876 fans in attendance. The first game of the marathon, West Virginia at nationally ranked Gonzaga, had 6,000 fans show up for the 9 p.m. local start in Spokane, Wash.
Lobos fans didn’t just show up, though; they made their presence felt. Throughout the game, even after UNM started slowly and Davidson’s white-hot shooting led to a 16-point second half lead, the fans never really slipped out of their frenzy.
Lobos players and coaches said the energy in the arena was a huge factor in the second-half rally.
“I think it’s awesome,” UNM sophomore center Alex Kirk said. “I think we owed it to the fans. They came out, I mean all the students were out there tailgating and what, it’s probably like 15-degree weather out there? That’s pretty awesome that we were able to give them that second half. We definitely owed them that.”
There is no easy way to tell how much of the rally can be attributed to UNM’s defense, Davidson’s obvious fatigue down the stretch, the crowd or the elevation.
Eric Angevine of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk.com may have summed up Tuesday morning’s game the best in his recap of the game.
“Few places,” Angevine wrote Tuesday, “sap the vitality from a team like the Pit can.”
SEASON TICKETS: UNM sold 11,069 season tickets for the 2012-13 campaign, the third consecutive season the program has broken the 11,000 mark, according to Mark Koson, UNM’s associate athletic director for ticketing. The Lobos sold 11,119 season tickets for the 2011-12 season.