Photo by Patricia O’Blenes A group of Oakland University fans celebrate after the Golden Grizzlies took a lead over Michigan State in a Dec. 16 game. A total of 20,645 fans attended the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase, a record crowd for Little Caesars Arena.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes A group of Oakland University fans celebrate after the Golden Grizzlies took a lead over Michigan State in a Dec. 16 game. A total of 20,645 fans attended the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase, a record crowd for Little Caesars Arena.

Fans stuff Little Caesars Arena, topping attendance record

By: Timothy Pontzer | C&G Newspapers | Published December 22, 2017

DETROIT — While both contests in the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase had the outcome most expected, contingents of the faithful from each team made the trip down to the Motor City Dec. 16 to catch University Detroit Mercy and University of Michigan, and Michigan State University and Oakland University men’s basketball do battle.

Although Little Caesars Arena is only a few months old, the doubleheader set a new mark for the venue. A total of 20,645 fans filled the bright red seats, an all-time attendance mark that bests any concert, Red Wings or Pistons game for the venue.

Large patches of green for Michigan State clashed with the bright maize of Michigan throughout the stands. Oakland’s black and gold took up two entire sections of the lower bowl, and the red, white and blue of Detroit Mercy was found in all corners of the arena.

“I really want to thank our fans for showing up,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It was incredible how many we had here today.”

Robert Collins was one of those fans, enjoying the event with his two grandchildren, Bradley and Logan. A native of Bloomfield Hills, the longtime Spartans fan was thrilled to get a chance to see his favorite team in person.

“I’ve loved Michigan State for a long time, but I’ve only seen them play one time,” Collins explained. “I went up with a friend to East Lansing years ago. I watch them on television all the time, and I will always support Tom Izzo. Tickets were cheap, so I brought my grandkids so they could see them play.”

Collins was pleased with the 86-73 MSU victory and was impressed with his first experience at Little Caesars Arena.

“This is quite a place,” Collins remarked. “I’ve wanted to come down to see the Wings, but tickets are too much. I’m not a big fan of pro basketball, so I really wouldn’t go to a Pistons game. This was really cool to see State and this place.”

The in-state, in-conference rivalries between U-M and MSU, and between Oakland and Detroit Mercy were on full display with signs and friendly banter between the fans. Even though the animosity was not settled on the floor, some fans like Brian Reddy used the event to cheer against a rival and then support a favorite on the same day.

“I’ll be pulling hard for Oakland,” the St. Clair Shores resident said after the first game. “It’s cool to not only see my Wolverines win, but also get to boo State.”

Kyle Mansour graduated from Oakland in 2016, and rhe outinely makes the drive down to the new arena, as he works as a team assistant with the Pistons, but this was an opportunity to experience the venue as a fan.

“It’s nice to sit back and take it all in for once,” said Mansour, who lives in Clarkston. “And it’s great to finally see LCA finally filled up to capacity for a sporting event. It can get really loud in here.”

While Detroit Mercy could not garner a lead over the Wolverines, eventually losing 90-58, many Titans fans were pleased to see their team on the big stage. Mark Misko said he bought his tickets on the release day, excited to attend his first event at the state-of-the-art stadium.

“It’s a shame the way we played, but the arena is wonderful,” the Livonia resident remarked. “When you walk in, it was really something, a great experience. The sightlines are great, and it’s great to see them play here. I’ll be back down here for the Horizon League tournament.”

Misko had reasonw to cheer in both games. He spent two semesters at Michigan State before transferring to Detroit Mercy, where he graduated from in 1987. He said he has attended nearly every men’s and women’s game at Calihan Hall in the past decade, and he watches the Titans on the road three to four times a year.

“I’ll definitely be cheering for MSU, and plus it’s against Oakland, who we don’t really like,” Misko said. “I’m a basketball junkie, and I really like the college game. I hope they can keep doing this. It would be a great thing for the city and our league.”