Idaho State basketball has a major problem.
It starts with the personnel and trickles all the way down to potential recruits.
The Bengals don’t have a home court. They have two.
And neither is truly a home.
The men’s basketball team splits its home games between Reed Gym and Holt Arena. Reed is used for P.E. classes and is the home court of the volleyball and women’s basketball teams. Holt is the home stadium for the football team and is used year-round for just about everything, from track and field, to wrestling, to dirt bike competitions and monster truck rallies.
Reed is bright, tight and intimate. Holt is open and dim. In the winter, Reed is balmy. Holt is an ice box.
What’s the message to 18-year-old recruits? “Here’s our home stadium, but we also play a few home games at this other gym every season because of track meets and high school wrestling.” That isn’t an easy sell.
After ISU’s home game with Weber State drew 2,236 fans — the highest-attended game at Reed Gym in head coach Bill Evans’ tenure (2012-13-present) — the Bengals moved back over to Holt, where a few weeks earlier, warm air was ineffectively being pumped onto the court through giant, loud, obnoxious tubes splayed on the ground like the scariest worms you’ve ever seen.
Not exactly ideal.
“Personally, I like playing in Reed,” said Bengals senior Ben Wilson. “It’s a little bit louder. Not as spread out.”
Until ISU’s game against Portland State on Feb. 11, the Weber game was highest-attended game of the season. The PSU game, which was played at Holt Arena, drew 2,602 fans, the largest attendance in Evans’ time at ISU.
The Bengals are 4-0 at Reed Gym this season and 5-2 at Holt Arena.
“Reed Gym, it’s smaller,” said ISU sophomore Geno Luzcando. “It feels more like (the fans are) into us (at Reed) compared (to) here (at Holt). It’s way bigger. So it’s a lot different. But I like it here too because its like an arena. As (for) a crowd I, would choose to play over there (at Reed).”
The Holt-Reed midseason switchoff is nothing new for ISU fans. But do they attend one facility more than the other?
In Evans’ three-plus seasons as head coach, the Bengals have played 15 games at Reed Gym and 34 at Holt Arena. Average attendance for games played at Reed in that span is 1,700.9 people per game. Average attendance for Holt is 1,754.6 people.
In the past three-plus seasons, nine Bengals home games have drawn over 2,000 fans. Six at Holt, three at Reed.
The top-five attended games, in order, occurred at Holt, Holt, Reed, Reed, Holt.
And since Evans arrived in Pocatello, Idaho State is 21-13 (.618 winning percentage) at Holt Arena, and 9-6 (.600 winning percentage) at Reed Gym.
So based on this smallish sample size, does location affect fan participation or player performance? Not significantly.
But does the lack of a true home court affect the program on a larger level, with uncalculated losses of potential fans and recruits?
Probably. Which is why Idaho State Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey announced plans to build a $20 million basketball stadium last spring.
“We know that this needs to happen,” Tingey told the Journal last May.
Progress. And it’ll matter.
TEAM THAT HAD THE BEST WEEK: EASTERN WASHINGTON
The Eagles are soaring.
See what I did there?
Eastern beat North Dakota and Northern Colorado to extend its winning streak to a league-best six games and is unbeaten at home. Over their last three games, the Eagles scored 1.241 points per possession, good for third in the country (behind conference foes Montana and Montana State). For the season, EWU is the second-most offensively efficient home team, scoring 1.255 points per possession in Cheney. Senior guard Austin McBroom dropped 72 points in the pair of wins and was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
The Eagles (15-10, 9-4 Big Sky Conference) have a half-game cushion at the No. 3 spot in the standings and play their next three games on the road.
TEAM THAT HAD THE WORST WEEK: NORTHERN ARIZONA
The Lumberjacks got crushed by Montana State — 104-55 — in a game the Bobcats made a record 25 3-pointers.
Two days later, NAU was overmatched in an 85-67 loss at Montana.
The injury-riddled ’Jacks (4-20, 2-11) host fourth-place Idaho State and second-place Weber State this week.
SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: NORTH DAKOTA’S WINLESS WEEK
The Fighting Hawks began the week at 7-4 in league play and were tied for third in the standings. UND dropped its road games against Eastern Washington and Idaho, and is now tied for sixth in the Big Sky at 7-6.