Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Special night on tap at South Carolina

The first home game Tiffany Mitchell played in at South Carolina drew a total 2,912 fans.

About 18,000 - many of them already in their seats - will be in attendance tonight as the Gamecocks host UConn in a showdown of the nation's No. 1 and 2 ranked teams.

"When I first got there, we didn't win a lot of games so people didn't really come to the games because we continued to lose," Mitchell said. "Once we started to win games, we got people in here who wanted to see us play so that kind of turned around for us, we started winning. My sophomore year we won the regular season (SEC title) and you could see things starting to change, people wanted to come to our games to this year where we had over 10,000 season ticket holders, they really embrace winners and the whole atmosphere, it is huge family atmosphere around here."

Dawn Staley could be just scratching the surface of what could be happening with the South Carolina program. The South Carolina AD told the local media that he is in favor of the home and home series with UConn continuing. Certainly Staley is all for it even though she has gotten to the point where the Gamecocks can lead the nation in attendance whether UConn is on the schedule or not.
"I think our crowds are much different from any other crowds at any other sporting events, bring together, there is racial divide in South Carolina and that goes out the door when they come in to watch our team play," Staley said. "South Carolina doesn't look like what other teams look like meaning you always hear about UConn, you always hear about Notre Dame, you always hear about Maryland, Baylor has always been up there but South Carolina has been different from all of them  because we haven't been a traditionally rich basketball program so it has given hope to the rest of Division I that they can get lucky enough to have local kids in your area who are really good that everybody wants, pound the pavement and coach them up, get them to believe in a vision and it can happen. I am happy that our program touches masses because we look like the average program."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he loves playing games like this in February even though many coache do not share his enthusiasm.

"It is not even about winning and losing although obviously everybody wants to win, nobody wants to lose but from big picture standpoint it is more the actual game itself," Auriemma said. "The idea that the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country according to the experts are playing and I hope at the end of the game we can look back and go 'that was a hell of a show, we had a chance to see women's basketball at its best played by two of the best teams in the country on national television in front of a sold out arena.' Regardless of whether we win or we don't win, I think that will be a win for all the other reasons. Sometimes these games don't look up to the hype and more than anything I hope the  game lives up to all the attention that people are giving it."


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