North Carolina players praise Kennel atmosphere after loss to Gonzaga
Dec. 18, 2019 Updated Wed., Dec. 18, 2019 at 10:26 p.m.
It was North Carolina head coach Roy Williams’ idea to play a home-and-home series with Gonzaga.
Williams has a history of playing anybody anywhere, and this was one place his Tar Heels had never traveled.
“It’s a great college basketball atmosphere. The crowd was fantastic,” Williams said to start his postgame press conference.
Williams’ teams have a history of playing at some of the top college environments in the country. With the Kennel checked off his list, there aren’t too many major programs left to visit.
“I think this is what college basketball is all about. I don’t think you need to play 45 conference games,” Williams said. “I like to play home-and-away with some big-time opponents. I think it is good for basketball and I think it is good for my teams.”
After taking some hits on social media and getting called out by current and former players, the Kennel Club responded in a big way. It almost sold out its three sections even with students being on Christmas break.
The students packed their sections more than an hour before tipoff and were buzzing the entire time. They made their presence felt during pregame warmups, rocking the Kennel with boos as the Tar Heels took the floor.
“The student section with everybody on top of us, they were loud the whole game,” Tar Heels freshman Anthony Harris said. “Just adjusting to that environment was really difficult. As of right now, it (was the most difficult place to play).”
The season-ticket holders also got in on the action, standing most of the first half while GU kept trying to pull away from UNC.
They didn’t want to be outdone by the students while outnumbering them more than 4 to 1.
“It was a loud crowd. I didn’t know that coming in, but it is a great environment and I see why those guys play hard for those fans,” Tar Heels freshman Jeremiah Francis said. “This is why I came to North Carolina, to play the best competition.”
North Carolina guard Brandon Robinson (4) and Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert (24) fall chasing a loose ball during the first half of a college basketball game, Wed., Dec. 18, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
After the Bulldogs continued to extend their lead, the crowd kept the noise meter cranked to 10.
Chant after chant rained down from students while the other fans added their energy here and there. Even in the final minute, with the game comfortably in hand, fans still made their position to the referees known on a foul call that went against the Bulldogs.
“It was tough, one of the loudest places from start to finish, I must say,” North Carolina junior Garrison Brooks said. “Especially when the ground is rocking, it is a tough place.”
The only thing that worked against the crowd was the lack of one more made 3-pointer. Fans receive a voucher for free tacos whenever the Zags knock down 10 3-pointers.
As GU’s Corey Kispert continued to knock down 3s, the Kennel Club grew louder with each make. As the game clock ticked toward zero, only one more was needed.
Unfortunately for the fans – specifically the Kennel Club – the Bulldogs finished with nine 3-pointers.
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