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Women's Hoops Attracting New Fans

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With a strong start to the season and their first national ranking since 2003 (the Gamecocks were ranked #24 in last week's AP poll), Women's Basketball enjoyed a great crowd at Colonial Life Arena for their big match-up with #9 Kentucky on Sunday. Over 4,650 fans, the largest of the season so far for women's hoops, cheered on the Gamecocks as they battled back and forth with the Wildcats. UK would escape with a 66-58 win, but the crowd responded with a loud ovation for the Gamecocks' effort in the game that could have gone either way.


The crowd at basketball can make a huge difference in a game. Our women's team has a very dedicated core group of fans who are at every home game and Sunday was no different. Tom, an older gentleman and long-time fan who said he comes to almost all the games, shared that he was very excited about the squad's start to the season.

"I think they've come a long way and they're on their way to becoming a great team," Tom said. "I enjoy their competitiveness, their athletic ability and how hard they play."

But as the season has progressed, the diehards like Tom have been steadily joined by newcomers.

"It's awesome for us to see that many fans in the crowd [at the Kentucky game]," said senior guard Courtney Newton. "I've been here for five years and that's the most people I've ever seen in the crowd. It really helps us and lets us know the hard work we've been putting in at practice and the hard work we've been putting into games is paying off and we're starting to get a larger fan base. We've just got to keep going and keep winning so we can keep that fan base."

One woman, Knaja, was making her first trip to a game after deciding to bring her young daughter who plays basketball.

"Since my daughter is a basketball player we wanted to show her some skills, see what she can enhance herself on," said Knaja. "I'm positive we will be back."

Jessica Tobey, a student at Carolina who said she comes to almost all of the men's basketball games, also said she would be attending more women's basketball games.

"I've heard a lot of hype about them, and I just like the women's games," said Tobey.

The Gamecocks have found their wins this season primarily with defense, ranking second in the nation behind only UConn in points allowed. Despite the loss to #9 Kentucky, Carolina only allowed them 66 points, well below their season average of over 80 points per game. Only two of the Gamecocks' four total losses have been at home, with both coming at the hands of highly ranked teams in #9 Kentucky and then-#11 Penn State. Protecting home court has been part of head coach Dawn Staley's mantra all season and great crowds can be a part of that.

"I was really proud [of the large crowd on Sunday at the Kentucky game], proud to have people who support us, especially the faithful," said Staley. "I was happy that our marketing department did a tremendous job at filling the seats, and although we didn't get the win, we did get a glimpse of what our future is going to be, where we get people in the stands and supporting us... To the fans, my hat goes off to them because they could be somewhere else for the two hours that they're watching our game, cheering us on, and being supportive. For them, I just hope we can continue to be successful and give them a great product to cheer for."

Freshman Tina Roy greets fans after a win over SC State earlier this season. The team greets and high fives fans after every game.

The Gamecocks face two road tests this week at Auburn on Thursday (7:00 p.m., no TV, listen online) and at #25/22 Vanderbilt (1:30 p.m., TV: ESPNU, listen online). Next week they return to Columbia for two home games, Thursday, Jan. 26 vs. Ole Miss at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 29 vs. Mississippi State at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for youth 17 and under. Carolina students are free with their ID.

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