Last night, I made a pit stop on my way home in Wichita to watch the Cowboys take on the Shockers. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in, but was pleasantly surprised with almost everything I saw.
I left Stillwater and drove through what Southerners would call Snowmaggedon, but I had another name for it.
Anyway, once I made it to the arena, I found my seat waaaaay up top and settled in for what I thought would be a good game between a perennial NCAA Tournament team and an up and coming team with a new coach.
As we saw, the game was anything but. The Cowboys came out ready to go and never took their foot off the pedal. Instead of talking about the game though, I’m going to talk about the arena, the fans, and the whole fan experience.
Instead of playing at their on-campus home arena, Charles Koch Arena, the Shockers did battle in the INTRUST Bank Arena. This was a double-decker arena, similar to what Gallagher-Iba Arena was before they expanded it.
It was a beautiful arena, not huge, but very modern and easy to navigate. I found my seat with no difficulty at all. It was a bit congested in the walkways, but what arena filled to capacity isn’t? In fact, according to ESPN, 15,004 people jammed into the 10,656 seat arena. I’m not sure how they did it, but they filled the arena up.
The only complaint I had was the scoreboard. If you were following along on Snapchat, when I was giving score updates during the media timeouts, you saw me constantly moving as I looked at the scoreboard. That’s because I had to look through the catwalks, speakers, and lights to see the board. That was mildly annoying, but bearable. It was mostly because of where my seat was. There were also no replays in the arena, so if you missed something, you missed it. Not really a scoreboard complaint, but I didn’t know where else to put it.
The food options were the highlight of the INTRUST Bank Arena. Most arenas you go to (or at least that I have been to), have 20 concession stands, but they all offer the same thing at every single one. Not here. They had different concession stands offering different food everywhere you looked. They had a chicken stand, a pizza stand, a burger stand, a candy stand, a BBQ stand, etc. Just take a moment and look at everything they offer.
Overall, I loved this arena. I haven’t been to many basketball arenas, but I would definitely go back for another basketball game.
This is one of the things that always makes me hesitant to travel to away games, especially going by myself. You hear horror stories about how fans treat other fans who travel to their stadium, and I always have to think about if I really want to go by myself. The Wichita fans couldn’t have been nicer. They were getting killed on the court, but weren’t taking their frustrations out on the opposing fans. Maybe I just got lucky and didn’t run into the not-as-nice fans, but in my eyes, the Wichita State fans were nice and respectful. They weren’t cussing me or the group of OSU fans in front of me out when we cheered, and a few of them came up to me and started conversations. I think it’s a Midwest thing. Most people are friendly, and just wanna have a good time.
Also, they stuck around for most of the game. I was shocked (no pun intended) and impressed. When your team is losing by 15+ and can’t get anything going on offense, not many fans want to stick around and watch. For the most part, they stayed. It was at the under-4 minutes timeout when many fans finally threw in the towel and ventured off into the cold snowy night.
Wichita State fans - you get an A+ in my book.
Even though there were 15,000+ people in the arena, it wasn’t overly loud. I sat behind the band, so they seemed small and quiet. The Shockers really didn’t give their fans much to be rowdy about either, so it was pretty mellow all night. There were glimpses though - times when they exploded and caught me off guard. It was funny - they were ready to get rowdy over anything, and at times I just had to chuckle. For example - when WSU went on it’s mini-run to cut the score to 35-25 OSU, you would have thought they just hit a 3 to take the lead with less than a minute left. The noise quickly ended when Dziagwa hit his own 3 pointer, but it made me think how much more difficult the game would have been had Underwood and Co. not stepped on the Shockers’ throats as soon as the game tipped off. In fact, taking the crowd out of the game was one of my three big things for the game, if you remember.
We’ve won only one true road game this season, and that was when we barely scraped by Tulsa. We had an opportunity to win a game in College Park, Maryland, but that slipped through our fingers. A good way to win on the road is take the crowd out of it early. You shut down an opposing crowd early and never let up, that’s one less opponent you have to face off against.
That’s exactly what the Cowboys did tonight, and look what happened.
Sitting at the top of a very quiet and deflated INTRUST Bank Arena. Exactly what you want on the road against a perennial tournament team.— Tyler Wiederhoeft (@TDWiederhoeft) December 18, 2016
I had a blast. I would go back in a heartbeat. I hope OSU and Wichita State become non-conference basketball rivals, because I think it would be a fun rivalry to have every year. It made going 60 mph on Interstate 35 worth it. It just so happened this game fit my schedule this year. If the two teams match up in Wichita again, I may have to mold my schedule to fit the game. Next year, the Shockers come down to Stillwater to finish up the home-and-home series. I would highly recommend making this trip, should the stars align again in the future.