Ball State women's basketball head coach Brady Sallee talking to his team during a timeout break against Western Kentucky on Nov. 19. KORINA VALENZUELA // DN File
Kids' Day brings Ball State women's basketball largest crowd since January 2015
Halftime at Ball State women's basketball games usually features a game like knockout or musical chairs, played by a couple of kids pulled out of the crowd. It's cute, clean fun that usually prompts a few cheers and laughs from the fans.
But Friday's home opener at 11 a.m. had a different atmosphere. It was Kids' Day, so the halftime participants had support from about 1000 students from seven local elementary and middle schools.
When a student from each school was selected to play knockout at halftime -- on the court, in front of all of their classmates -- the cheering and screaming was just as loud, if not louder, than it was when the final buzzer sounded for Ball State's 88-60 win.
Kids' Day attendance -- 1,683
2015-16 highest home attendance -- 1,517 (vs. Ohio, 1/30/2016)
2015-16 average home attendance -- 1,000
"I know the players appreciate running out to a crowd of 1700 or so, and that was definitely a lot of fun," head coach Brady Sallee said. "I think it showed with the tempo we played, how excited they were to get out on the floor."
The crowd of 1,683 in the season opener was larger than any home crowd last season -- in number, if not in size. The halftime round of musical chairs almost didn't have a winner because the two finalists were both small enough to fit on the same chair.
It was also the largest crowd since the Cardinals hosted Ohio University on January 24, 2015, but Sallee thinks it can go bigger.
"We did [Kids' Day] at my previous stop [at Eastern Illinois] and got it built up to over 2,000 at one point," he said. "I think we could do it bigger here with all of the schools in the area. Every player wants to do it to cheers and everybody wants to get the crowd going."
The idea was born almost out of necessity. The game was played so early because women's volleyball already had Worthen Arena booked for its 7 p.m. game against Western Michigan. The early start, however, made for an excellent field trip opportunity.
It wasn't all just fun and games at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals had filmed a series of anti-bullying messages that played on the video board throughout the game. There were also clips of Ball State players interacting with some of the students when they visited local schools earlier this year.
“I know all of us, from a players’ standpoint, were really excited because we’ve been in the schools with them,” senior center Renee Bennett said. “We’ve met some of them, we’ve had a really good time working with them to this point. So for them to come and support us at our first game meant a lot to us.”
Bennett recorded a double-double in the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward Moriah Monaco led the Cardinals with 24 points scored.
"I, personally, was pumped to see all of these little kids and everybody else that came out because its always fun playing with the bigger crowd," Monaco said.
The pregame routine even had some extra flair with some new lights and smoke machines for the players' introductions. Although the kids didn't get the same introduction for their halftime competitions, they still cheered just as loud.