Forgive the UCLA men’s basketball team if they’ve seemed a little off the last few weeks. Chances are, they might be feeling a little empty inside. Because they are. Empty, that is. They have to play their home games in a mostly desolate arena, with few fans in sight.
Of course, the university cites (what else?) a COVID-19 spike as the reason for the limited attendance at Pauley Pavilion through at least January 21st — only family members can attend games — leaving the team feeling demoralized, despite their 11-2 record.
“I think it’s hugely demoralizing to our guys to play games in empty arenas when there’s 80,000 people at the Rams game [Monday night],” head coach Mick Cronin told the LA Times.
UCLA’s coach tees off on school policy that disallows fans at their games. https://t.co/9zYHajkaw7
Pauley Pavilion, one of the most storied venues in college hoops, has a seating capacity of just under 13,000. Over their last three home games, the Bruins have averaged slightly more fans than a high school JV game — 156.
The limited attendance has taken its toll on the ninth-ranked Bruins, who find themselves anxious to play back-to-back road games this Thursday and Saturday in order to return to some sense of normalcy.
“Our guys should be energized — I know they will when we run out in front of other people and get to play a game in front of fans,” added Cronin.
Bruins guard Jules Bernard agreed with his coaching, telling the LA Times: “But [having fans] definitely helps, gets the energy up in the building.”
UCLA is slated to play in front of fans at Utah this evening at 8:00 PM Pacific.
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