Wichita State fans forgo sleep to watch midnight game

Alex Scott has a U.S. History exam at noon Tuesday at Kapaun Mount Carmel High. She hopes to be awake for it.

Scott, a junior, was one of the fewer-than-normal school-age kids who were at Koch Arena early Tuesday morning for Wichita State’s basketball game against Western Kentucky. The game ended after 2 a.m., meaning not much sleep before the 8 a.m. bell.

The midnight start — made to accommodate ESPN’s 24 hours of basketball games — meant not as many young Shocker fans were on hand. But to Scott there was one reason to stay up late and sacrifice sleep before a school day.

“Because it’s the Shockers,” she said.

The sellout crowd of 10,506 was its normal raucous self, maybe even up a notch from normal. The student section filled to the top of the arena quickly, and there were fewer empty seats than in the Shockers’ first two games — an exhibition and a win over Division II Emporia State.

Scott was at the game with the Lujano family — father Roberto, daughter Ana, 17; and sons Roberto Jr., 13; and Julian 11.

For dad, there was no doubt the kids would attend the game even though the youngest’s wakeup time for school was about four hours from when the family would arrive home from the game.

“They did their homework, and they’re good students,” Lujano said.

But there were noticeably fewer younger kids in the arena. Wichita State had expected some no-shows of all ages, which is why coach Gregg Marshall had stressed for weeks that if tickets weren’t going to be used, give them away so the seat would be filled.

That wasn’t a problem. The top row of the arena was filled all the way around.

Tim Alexander, 28, wasn’t giving his seats away. A season-ticket holder, he arrived early and, along with friends Nick Ellis and Colt Blew, received complimentary energy drinks upon their arrival and said there was no reason to worry about missing sleep.

“I thought about taking a nap before, but then I thought that if I did, I’d be really tired,” Alexander said.

Fans were in place and ready to celebrate the unveiling of last season’s Final Four banner just before player introductions. The banner, which features a large Atlanta Final Four logo, was unfurled moments before ESPN cameras switched to Wichita.

“You can’t miss this,” Lujano said.