CONWAY, S.C., November 17, 2018 – The country roads that take West Virginia fans home obviously run both ways. That has been evident throughout the first two days of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, as WVU supporters have traveled in mass to South Carolina and packed the 3,370-seat HTC Center where the tournament is being held.
West Virginia fans reportedly scooped up more than 2,300 tickets to this tournament, making the event look and sound at times like the WVU Invitational with the regular chant of “Let’s go … Mountaineers.” This is not an uncommon situation. The team’s supporters routinely travel to watch the Mountaineers, even showing up last year for the season-opener in Germany.
“I feel like we have some of the best fans in college basketball,” WVU senior forward Esa Ahmad said. “Everywhere we go, we have fans. It’s unbelievable. We love our fans.”
Junior guard James Bolden, who is from the hoops-happy state of Kentucky, echoed those thoughts. “Our fans are amazing,” he said. “They do a great job of traveling. We’re lucky to have a fan base like them. It makes every game feel like a home game.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he is not the least bit surprised that so many WVU fans made the trip for the Myrtle Beach Invitational. A native of Morgantown, Huggins grew up sitting on his grandfather’s lap listening to legendary radio announcer Jack Fleming call WVU games, so he knows firsthand the passion the state has for the Mountaineers.
“I knew this was going to happen, because people were calling everybody at school and down here trying to get tickets,” Huggins said. “West Virginia people are great. It’s really a neat thing. You don’t have be a WVU grad. You just have to be from West Virginia to be a WVU fan. It goes with the territory. They’re just people who grew up loving the Mountaineers.”
While the West Virginia contingent was once again out in force for the Mountaineers’ tournament semifinal game on Friday, they were met by a smaller but still noisy group of Western Kentucky supporters. The two fans bases created a boisterous atmosphere in a game the Hilltopppers won 63-57, propelling them into Sunday’s championship matchup with UCF.
“All we heard was people yelling, ‘Hilltoppers,’ ” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said afterward with a smile. “That was a great atmosphere. Give West Virginia fans credit. They packed in there. But as a player and a coach, even when it’s opposing fans, you like that. You’re going to feed off that energy, and our guys did that.”
Sunday’s final round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with Wake Forest taking on Valparaiso, followed by Cal State Fullerton vs. Monmouth at 12:30 p.m. West Virginia will meet Saint Joseph’s at 4 p.m. in the third-place game, then Western Kentucky and UCF will battle for the tournament championship beginning at 6:30 p.m.
All four games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, with the title matchup being shown on ESPN2.