By R.L. Bynum
Part of building a nationally prominent women’s basketball program is consistently attracting big crowds.
It’s time for Tar Heels fans who haven’t supported the program to do their part and give Carolina its first sellout in nearly seven years.
There are plenty of reasons to show up in big numbers for the next two home games — at 3:30 Sunday against No. 11 N.C. State and 8 p.m. Thursday against No. 16 Duke — coming off a huge 60–50 win over then-No. 4 Notre Dame and a remarkable 70–59 comeback victory Thursday at Virginia.
If Carolina fans are passionate about their rivalries with N.C. State and Duke — and you know they are — they need to show and support their team at least as well as Wolfpack fans have in recent years.
Coach Courtney Banghart’s team, which has beaten two top-five teams this season and rose to a No. 6 ranking twice this season, deserves much better support than the numbers that have shown up at Carmichael Arena this season.
At $15 for the State game and $10 for the Duke game, you can take the whole family for about the same money you’d spend on one men’s basketball ticket.
As N.C. State has won three consecutive ACC titles, Wolfpack fans have consistently filled most of the seats at Reynolds Coliseum, and the seating capacity is irrelevant.
UNC fans were loud and made a difference, particularly in the fourth quarter, during the No. 22 Tar Heels’ upset of Notre Dame before a season-high crowd of 3,976 fans.
“The crowd was helpful,” Banghart said. “They weren’t just watching the game. My mother would be watching the game; these guys were into it. I thought there were times when they willed us to victory.”
That was a good crowd but could have been better for a program on the rise. There is no excuse for the Carolina fanbase to not do much better than that. N.C. State has drawn larger crowds for all nine home games, with a high of 5,500 for three games and a low of 4,023 for Davidson.
It should be noted that attendance for UNC’s women’s games has been much better than at Duke, even though the Blue Devils are off to a 15–1 start and lead the ACC at 5–0. Duke has drawn more than UNC’s smallest crowd of the season (1,688 for USC Upstate) only twice (1,720 for the Louisville game on New Year’s Day and 2,134 for Thursday’s win over Clemson.)
But Duke hasn’t set the standard in the area recently for women’s basketball on the court or in terms of fan support. That’s been N.C. State, and it’s time for Carolina fans to not only match that support, but to exceed it since Carmichael’s capacity is 6,822, compared to 5,500 at Reynolds.
Plenty of Wolfpack fans will be in Chapel Hill for Sunday’s game, as has been the case for years. A number of Duke fans will be in Carmichael on Thursday.
Carolina hasn’t sold out a game since the No. 15 Tar Heels lost to No. 12 Duke 74–67 in overtime on Jan. 25, 2015.
Carolina women’s basketball has a passionate core of fans who show up for every game and have for years — even when the Tar Heels program went through rough patches. But there are way too many UNC fans who support men’s basketball and football but only take a casual interest in women’s basketball.
If the program is truly going to challenge national programs such as Tennessee and UConn, the fanbase needs to produce the kind of big crowds that are routine for the Lady Vols and the Huskies.
It should start with Sunday’s game against N.C. State, where big crowds are already a routine part of the program.
|9||Wednesday||W, 91–59||Jackson State||Home||1–0|
|16||Wednesday||W, 93–25||South Carolina State||Home||3–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 76–65||James Madison||Harrisonburg, Va.||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|27||Sunday||W, 73–64||No. 17 Iowa State||Portland||6–0|
|December||ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|1||Thursday||L, 87–63||No. 2 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||6–1|
|16||Friday||W, 89–47||USC Upstate||Home||9–1|
|20||Tuesday||L, 76–68||No. 18 Michigan||Charlotte||9–2|
|ACC season begins|
|29||Thursday||L, 78–71||Florida State||Home||9–3, 0–1 ACC|
|1||Sunday||L, 68–65||No. 4 |
|Blacksburg, Va.||9–4, 0–2 ACC|
|5||Thursday||L, 62–58||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||9–5, 0–3 ACC|
|8||Sunday||W, 60–50||No. 10 |
|12||Thursday||W, 70–59||Virginia||Charlottesville, Va.||11–5, |
|15||Sunday||W, 56–47||N.C. State||Home||12–5, |
|19||Thursday||W, 61–56||No. 13 Duke||Home||13–5, |
|22||Sunday||W, 70–57||Georgia Tech||Home||14–5, |
|26||Thursday||W, 72–57||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|29||Sunday||W, 69–58||Clemson||Clemson||16–5, |
|2||Thursday||W, 73–62||Virginia||Home||17–5, |
|5||Sunday||L, 62–55||Louisville||Louisville||17–6, |
|9||Thursday||L, 75–67||Syracuse||Syracuse||17–7, |
|12||Sunday||W, 73–55||Boston College||Home||18–7, |
|16||Thursday||L, 77–66, OT||N.C. State||Raleigh||18–8, |
|19||Sunday||W, 71–58||Wake Forest||Home||19–8, |
|23||Thursday||L, 61–59||No. 4 |
|26||Sunday||W, 45–41||No. 13 Duke||Durham||20–9, |
|3||Friday||L, 44–40||No. 13 Duke||Greensboro||21–10|
|18||Saturday||W, 61–59||St. John’s||Columbus, Ohio||22–10|
|20||Monday||L, 71–69||No. 12 Ohio State||Columbus, Ohio||22–11|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications