Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, was the place to be in the American sports world last night, as the No. 13 Hoosiers put together a dominating performance – they never trailed and UNC only got within four points once in the second half – to pick off the No. 3 Tar Heels.
The win came just eight days after Indiana went into Fort Wayne and lost to the Mastadons in overtime, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the crowd played a role in that result. Indiana students had been lined up, and likely lubricating, to get into the game since early that morning, and it showed. That building was deafening, and the energy spurred the Hoosiers to a 26-9 lead before UNC had realized what was going on.
UNC head coach Roy Williams said as much after the game, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
“It was a great college basketball atmosphere, and one team really played right from the get-go, the second one did not and that was us,” Williams said. “We were not ready for the intensity, the enthusiasm, anything that you want to talk about in the first half. But it was a wonderful crowd.”
(This is where his comment gets interesting.)
“Gosh. I’d like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin’ Duke game. And that was just – congratulations to them, their fans, their students. It was a big-time crowd.”
Yup, that Williams throwing shade at the wine and cheese crowd that attends North Carolina games, and he’s not wrong. The atmosphere at the Dean Dome, one of the historic buildings in the sport, isn’t what it is at some other college basketball venues because the good seats don’t go to the students, they go to the people with the money. They may love their Tar Heels, but they’re not yelling and screaming for 40 minutes the way a drunk 20-year old will be.
It’s something players notice.
North Carolina isn’t alone with this issue – Kentucky’s Rupp Arena has a similar reputation – and I’m not sure if it’s something that can change anytime soon. Those big-money donors aren’t going to want to give up their good seats. I know I wouldn’t.
But it is something that matters.
There’s a reason we always talk about how difficult it is to win on the road in college basketball. Indiana showed us why last night.