Mayes: Ray Harper says JSU could have a tough home-court advantage, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t


Pete Mathews Coliseum was at near-capacity crowd on Thursday for the Gamecocks’ game against EIU, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be packed every game. (Hollie Ivey, The Chanticleer)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief

“The crowd was great, and I can’t thank the students enough for showing up like they did. If they’ll keep coming back, and coming in those numbers, this could be a huge home-court advantage and one of the toughest home-courts in the league. That’s what it’s all about if you’re going to have a chance to play late in the year.”

That’s what JSU Head Basketball Coach Ray Harper said after Thursday night’s 69-62 win over Eastern Illinois was attended by a crowd that probably made the athletic staff glad they got that last section of missing bleachers (a casualty of the March 19 Tornado) repaired in time.

The fact of the matter is, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

Talk to anyone who’s played college basketball, or really anyone who has ever even attended a game, and they’ll rave about how important the advantage of an energized, attentive crowd is.

Just take Senior Marlon Hunter’s comments after the game:

“Tonight was crazy, man. We fed off the crowd’s energy all night. They crowd just kept on lifting us, and we kept turning it up.”

Atmosphere matters in college basketball.

Sure, not every game will feature a halftime performance by unicycling bowl-flipper Red Panda. Not every game will include a $200 reward for the campus organization with the most attendance.

But JSU can have a great atmosphere inside Pete Mathews. JSU has enough students, and the Coliseum is a small enough venue, that there is no reason it shouldn’t be at least mostly full for each game.

Especially during conference play. Especially with students back on campus.

“The crowd was great. I think that’s the best crowd we’ve had since I’ve been here,” JSU’s Jason Burnell said after Thursday’s game.

“The thing is, people are going to come see you if you win, so we’ve just got to keep winning.”

JSU is in the midst of unequivocally their best stretch of basketball since joining Division I. With an OVC Tournament win, NCAA Tournament appearance, a school record for single-season wins, and four-straight wins over the OVC’s historically best program in Belmont, Ray Harper and the Gamecocks have done their part in the last three years.

Now it’s time for students and JSU fans to keep up their end of the deal.

The Gamecocks go for five-straight over Belmont Thursday night. See you there, Gamecock nation.

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