They began filing in as their Hoosiers took the court and made their presence known throughout the game, painting the stands of the United Center in Chicago with Indiana cream and crimson.
Yelling at thunderous dunks from Trayce Jackson-Davis and key threes from Jalen Hood-Schifino? Check.
Jeering at the officials when they didn’t like the call? As if they wouldn’t.
Partying with the Tournament emcee on the jumbotron and booing it when it showed Maryland fans? Of course.
Indiana’s 70-60 win over Maryland on Friday may as well have been a home game given the Hoosiers’ fan turnout and their showing up throughout the matchup. Don’t believe me? I know someone you will.
“We have the best fans in the country, it just shows,” Jackson-Davis said in a postgame press conference. “Felt like a home game out there. They got super loud. We love playing for them, we love our Hoosier Nation.”
Fans gave cheers for Indiana’s starting lineup, with Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino receiving the most fanfare, while Maryland’s five were met with boos.
It’s not exactly a secret that Indiana has a strong alumni base in both Chicago and the surrounding area, with natives of the city or The Region often choosing to head to Bloomington for their college days. The university’s alumni association has an established, active chapter in Chicago to maximize fans’ presence.
And boy did they do so tonight.
Fans, both those who live nearby and others who made the drive from elsewhere, sang along to “Indiana, our Indiana,” belted out the traditional “I-U” chant and voiced some, uh, opinions when they didn’t quite agree with the whistle.
Fans yelled in disapproval throughout the night as the likes of Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates were left sliding across the court after contact with the Nittany Lions. If they weren’t at the game it’s worth a bet that they were tweeting about it.
Then there were, of course, the good moments. Key plays from Jackson-Davis like a mid-air pass and various moves in the post and a dagger three down the stretch from Hood-Schifino to make the Hoosiers’ lead logically unsurmountable.
The United Center took advantage, playing “This is Indiana” as fans filed for the exits as the Terrapins gave up on attacking the ball and let the clock hit zero.
Tomorrow they’ll represent a newfound issue for upstart Penn State, yet another road game. The Nittany Lions felled the Hoosiers at home earlier in the season, but the environment will be against them Saturday.
Penn State’s two Big Ten Tournament wins, over home-state Illinois and Northwestern, have had similar atmospheres. The Pennsylvania-based fanbase hasn’t travelled well through multiple states, though that hasn’t presented an issue for the Nittany Lions yet.
One team is looking to silence a third home crowd. The other is seeking its first Big Ten Tournament title in program history. One way or another, the crowd will factor in again.