Northwestern women's basketball was ranked 14th in the country Sunday, had a 9-3 Nebraska team with two of the best players in the conference in the building, and they pounded them into the hardwood for 40 minutes.
Northwestern's four best players slapped down 81 points, shot 12-24 from three, and combined to tally 15 steals. The Wildcats scored 28 fast break points. The Cornhuskers led for 61 seconds. Northwestern won the first quarter (yes, women's basketball has quarters now) 28-12.
It was a thorough dismantling of an actually good team, or, in other words, the best game any Northwestern basketball team has played this year.
I liked watching it.
Pretty sure my dad was there, and he liked watching it.
The other five people who were there probably liked it to.
Okay, that's hyperbole. The lower bowl at Welsh-Ryan arena was probably 70 percent full, which, in truth, is a good showing for a Northwestern women's basketball game. Which is INCREDIBLY messed up.
The average attendance for Northwestern women's basketball games this season, home, away, and neutral combined, is 1,248 bodies, and that's pretty slanted due to the 5,246 people who filled Welsh-Ryan on field trip day, when Northwestern pipes in elementary school children from all over to pack seats. The Big Ten average for attendance is a shade under 3,100. Or, for the math challenged like myself, 148 percent more than what Northwestern gets.
Northwestern gets less fan support for their women's team than Rutgers.
Wisconsin (5-6 so far this season) gets twice the crowd Northwestern gets.
I don't get it.
There are structural reasons why students don't get to the games. Shuttles don't run the same way they do for the men's team, but they are available via the 201 route on weekdays and game day shuttles are there on weekends. It's not easy, but it is doable.
Being in a very empty Welsh-Ryan for the Nebraska game after seeing and hearing every Northwestern fan ever talk about how great the environment was at Welsh-Ryan for the Maryland game made the inequity so much clearer. The men's team got to feed off of a frenzied atmosphere. The place was packed to the rafters. It was awesome. I can't wait for more of that.
The women's team got to feed off the echoes of the ball hitting the deck and the squeak of sneakers.
Wouldn't it be cool if the women's team got the environment of the Maryland game, or even half of that environment, just, like, one time this year?
I'm not asking for people to become die-hard women's basketball fans overnight. That's probably an unfair expectation. But just go to one game this year. Odds are, you're going to like what you see. And then maybe you'll go back for another. And then maybe you'll bring your friend to the next game. And then maybe enough people will show up to a game that the upper levels of the stadium are actually opened up. And then maybe the next time Northwestern places its boot on the neck of a good team and sends them home with their tails between their legs, they'll get the reception they deserve.
At least I can hope.