UK Women's Basketball

Fan base develops with UK women's winning ways

Kentucky Women's Baseketball fans at the home game against Florida at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky on 57-52.  Sunday January 22, ©2012.  Photo by Joseph Rey Au
Kentucky Women's Baseketball fans at the home game against Florida at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky on 57-52. Sunday January 22, ©2012. Photo by Joseph Rey Au

Coach Denise Campbell and about 25 members of her high school basketball team from Pike County were perched on the very back row at Memorial Coliseum during the University of Kentucky women's basketball game Sunday, and she thought that was a good thing.

"I told my girls that 10 years ago this place had only the bottom section full of fans for a women's basketball game," said Campbell, coach of East Ridge High School in Lick Creek.

"Today it's full, and that's the way it should be."

Attendance has been growing dramatically in recent years for home games for the UK women's team, currently ranked No. 6.

The crowd Sunday in the historic gym with a seating capacity near 8,000 saw the sixth-ranked Cats remain undefeated in the Southeastern Conference by downing Florida, 57-52. That extended the team's home winning streak to 16 games.

Sunday's game marked the third sell-out this season, with 7,888 fans in attendance. General admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children, with UK students and employees getting in free.

The largest attendance this year was the 14,508 who watched the team Dec. 8 at Rupp Arena when it defeated Duke.

Average home attendance for UK 10 years ago was 1,153. The smallest home crowd this season was 3,960 when UK played Northeastern on Nov. 17.

For 24 years, Memorial Coliseum housed the Kentucky Wildcats men's teams, which won two national championships and 24 Southeastern Conference titles while playing in the facility under legendary coaches Adolph Rupp and Joe B. Hall.

When the men's team moved downtown to the 23,000-seat Rupp Arena in 1976, the then-11,500-seat Coliseum became the exclusive home for the women's team.

The Coliseum's seating capacity shrunk a bit several years ago when the building was renovated.

But it might need an expansion if large crowds like Sunday's continue to show up.

Campbell attributed the large turnout to UK's aggressive style of play, the team's talent and the work of Coach Matthew Mitchell, now in his fifth year at UK.

"Winning always helps," Campbell added.

Rodney Hibbits of London watched his third UK women's game of the season Sunday with several family members.

"We love it," he said. "We really enjoy the pace of the game. These women really are intense."

Accompanying Hibbits was his sister, Dorissa Dotson of London, who was watching her first women's game.

"It's awesome," she said.

The Rev. Gary Pettyjohn, pastor of Athens Christian Church in Fayette County, went to the game with about 15 adults from his church.

"I appreciate the women's game for its speed," he said.

For members of his congregation to attend the game, which started at 2 p.m., Pettyjohn joked that he had to cut short his sermon Sunday morning.

"I still had two more points to make in my sermon," he said, "but they said they would sing me down if I continued."

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