The most successful women’s basketball program in college history is coming to Wichita this week.
The 11-time national champion Connecticut women’s basketball team will play Wichita State in Koch Arena at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to a source in the WSU ticket office, 4,800 tickets have been sold as of Saturday afternoon and the lower bowl is almost full. Tickets starting at $10 are available on GoShockers.com or by calling the WSU ticket office at 316-978-3267.
WSU is expecting to shatter its attendance record for a women’s game at Koch Arena, not counting the Schoolhouse Rocks games that bus in thousands of elementary kids. The previous high is the 5,262 fans who saw the Shockers play Missouri State in 2006.
Speaking at the American Athletic Conference media day in October, legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma encouraged WSU fans to come out and pack Koch Arena for the Huskies’ first trip.
“If you’ve never seen us play in person, come out and watch us because a strange thing might happen... you could win. And then that’s like the greatest thing ever,” Auriemma said. “Every time we go to a place for the very first time, obviously I want to win, but the next best thing to us winning is if they ever win. You get a sellout and we’re there, how many of those people are coming back because they were at that game? That’s what I always hope for.”
While a win for Wichita State (11-14) over No. 3 UConn (24-2) would certainly qualify as strange, at least this season as coach Keitha Adams’ rebuilding job is in its second year, but Adams has the same design as Auriemma for what can come from the game.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get people here that haven’t been here before,” Adams said. “It’s a great opportunity to have them in our building and for fans to maybe come see us play for the first time, too. What I want to do is build this thing where I want people to be fired up about our team and how we play. So this is great that it’s going to be bring in new people in the building, the key is that we have them come back.”
For Auriemma, trips like the one to Wichita on Tuesday is nothing new. For the last decade-plus, UConn has been an attraction to whatever city and arena they play in. But when it’s a first-time visit, the allure is even stronger.
WSU hopes girls basketball teams and coaches from around the area will help pack the arena, as well as any basketball fans in general who can have a chance to watch Auriemma and his finely-tuned machine play for the first time in person.
“Over the years, we’ve been in these situations quite a lot where we’re going some place for the very first time,” Auriemma said. “Sometimes there isn’t a basketball tradition and they’re not quite sure or they don’t really understand, but when we go to a place where they really appreciate basketball (like Wichita State), our kids get jacked up about it.”
Auriemma is aware of the Koch Arena crowd because of the success the WSU men’s program has had in recent history. The UConn coach also said he is an avid college baseball fan and also knows the Shockers from their tradition of success with the baseball program.
“I’m anxious to go out there because I’ve never been there,” Auriemma said. “I want to see what it feels like.”