MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- It was a special day at the Murphy Center on Thursday as more than 6,000 Murfreesboro City Schools students attended the Lady Raiders game against Kennesaw State to mark Education Day.
It was the second year in a row in which the program partnered with the school system for the event. MTSU won the game easily, 68-32, for its fifth win in a row this season.
The total attendance for the game was 10,028, which was the fourth largest in school history.
The Lady Raiders (6-3) now average 8,692 fans per home game this season, which ranks third in the nation.
The players and coaches said they were excited to play in front of the students.
“The coaches kept stressing just stay focused and do not get too caught up into it,” MTSU senior forward Ebony Rowe said. “How can you not get into it with all of those kids having so much fun and screaming loud for us after every play. It was great, even after the game getting to interact with those kids and going up there to talk to them was the best part.”
MTSU head coach Rick Insell added: “The positive of it was it was a win-win for everybody. Some of those young people today this was their first ever Division I basketball game, and they will be asking their mom's and dad's to come back. They will be asking I like what is going on at Middle Tennessee, and I like what I saw today in women's basketball. You never know, we might have had a young lady that is going to be the next Pat Summit or the next Geno Auriemma.
The students were treated to a lot of great action while getting in some learning in at the same time. Most of the children arrived about two hours before tipoff, and they were shown some ESPN Sports Science clips on the big video screens.
A few minutes later, the Lady Raiders came out for warm-ups, and the students made a lot of noise for them.
During the game, students and teachers took part in several activities, which some of the questions dealt with math and science.
During halftime, mascots from several companies and local teams took part in a special basketball game.
Many of the students said they had a great time, including Northfield Elementary fourth-grader Ella Riley, who sat with her class behind one of the baskets.
“It is fun to watch the Lady Raiders,” she said. “My favorite part is getting to watch the game.”
Everyone involved in the game hopes events like this will help grow women's basketball as a whole.
“It helps grow it a lot,” Rowe said. “I think women get cheated in a lot of arenas. We have been blessed to play in front of an amazing fan base. It is one of the best in the country, but when we go to some of these other places they are still trying to get their support up. The more we get these kids to our games, the more excited they get about women's basketball. They are going to want to bring their families, and it's going to help the game overall.”