Like most opposing coaches, Kansas State’s Jeff Mittie was impressed with Colonial Life Arena and the numerous fans (10,276) that helped fill it for Friday’s first two games of the NCAA tournament.
“I probably won’t enjoy it as much as I did last night,” Mittie said, previewing the Wildcats’ Sunday second-round matchup with South Carolina. “You wish every site was like this, because it really creates a lot of excitement for the players, for the coaches and for all the fans.”
Mittie caught the nightcap between the Gamecocks and Jacksonville after K-State upset George Washington. He loved the atmosphere – until he realized that some of the USC fans who showed up early that cheered for his team would all be against him Sunday.
“We play in some great gyms, playing in the Big 12, so it’s going to be something we adjust to,” center Breanna Lewis said. “For me, it’s exciting because you hear all the fans cheer. We’re just going to have to communicate more and be loud on the court.”
Megan Deines compared CLA to Baylor’s Ferrell Center, which seats 10,347. CLA seats 18,000, with 10,276 showing up Friday.
“I was very impressed by their knowledgeable fan base,” Mittie said. “The really knowledgeable fans cheer when their team needs something.”
Basketball royalty was at CLA on Friday.
Hall-of-Famer Artis Gilmore took in the USC-Jacksonville game from a courtside seat. His green jacket reflected his alma mater, Jacksonville, and where he currently works as a special assistant to the school president.
Gilmore was a two-time All-American with the Dolphins and led them to a national runner-up finish in 1970. Still an NCAA record-holder with 22.7 rebounds per game in 1971, Gilmore went on to play 18 professional seasons.
I REMEMBER WHEN
Mittie and Dawn Staley have met before. Mittie’s 2004 team at TCU beat Staley’s Temple squad 70-57 in the 2004 NCAA tournament.
“We both had very good programs at the time,” Mittie said. “Dawn had done a fabulous job at Temple in building that. We were fortunate enough to get out of there with a W.”
Played in Philadelphia, the Owls led 41-40 midway through the second half before the Lady Frogs took over. TCU lost to Georgia in the next round.
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(9) KANSAS STATE (19-12) at (1) SOUTH CAROLINA (32-1)
What: Second round, NCAA tournament
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Available at the box office
Kansas State’s probable starters: G Kindred Wesemann 5-6 Jr. (12.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg), G Megan Deines 6-1 Sr. (9.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg), G Shaelyn Martin 6-0 So. (4.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Breanna Lewis 6-5 Jr. (16.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg), F Kaylee Page 6-2 So. (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 Sr. (6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Sr. (14.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 Sr. (3.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 So. (16.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Jr. (11.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg)
Next game: The winner plays the Syracuse-Albany winner at a time to be determined on Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D.