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Originally published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 9:09 PM

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Slow season start, late game starts don't help UW at gate | Men's basketball

Huskies fifth in Pac-12 men's basketball attendance, at 7,466 per game.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Wednesday

Colorado @ UW, 8:30 p.m., Pac-12

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Honestly the team hasn't been very exciting to watch up until two weeks ago. At this... MORE
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Where is everybody?

That's what Lorenzo Romar thought when he walked on the court at Alaska Airlines Arena before Washington's game against Saint Louis.

Only 6,928 fans were in attendance for the Nov. 28 contest to watch the Huskies defeat the Billikens, marking the UW's smallest home crowd in years.

"I always say, we have to do our part to get fans excited," Romar said. "If we do that, then the fans will show up. For years we've had great support and our place has been one of the toughest environments in the conference.

"This year we haven't had the big crowds yet. But I'd be surprised if we don't have this place close to full."

It's unlikely Washington will draw its first sellout of the season Wednesday when it hosts Colorado in its Pac-12 home opener.

On Tuesday the school reported 7,715 tickets were sold for the game.

The Huskies averaged 7,466 during nine nonconference games, attracting a season-high 7,874 for Cal Poly. That's a significant decline for a venue that averaged 9,000-plus crowds only a few years ago.

"We have seen a dip in attendance from last season through our nonconference games, but we're hopeful that fans will rally behind the momentum of this team," said Jen Cohen, senior associate athletic director, referring to the Huskies' 9-2 mark in their last 11 games and 3-0 start in Pac-12 play.

Among the reasons for low turnouts this season:

• Tipoff times have been less than ideal.

For years most Washington games began at 7 p.m., but everything changed when the Pac-12 created its TV network and negotiated a $3 billion broadcast deal with ESPN and Fox.

Scheduling is now controlled by the conference, which explains why the Huskies played Saint Louis at 9 p.m. and why Wednesday's game against Colorado begins at 8:30.

"That's the deal we made and the deal we have to live with," Romar said.

• The Huskies, coming off a Pac-12 regular-season championship, had their season's start dampened by three home defeats.

"Playing at home used to be our strength," senior center Aziz N'Diaye said. "We have to get back to that."

• Many fans point to Washington's lackluster home nonconference schedule to explain why the Huskies averaged their lowest attendance since the 2008-09 season. Not even UW die-hards circled their calendars for games against Cal-State Fullerton and Jackson State.

Romar noted the Huskies played a few games while students were on break for the holidays. He also acknowledged the football team's trip to the Las Vegas bowl may have affected turnout.

But Wednesday is a major test for Washington and its fans.

The Huskies (11-5, 3-0 Pac-12) are riding a three-game winning streak and they're facing a Colorado team (11-5, 1-3) that won the conference tournament last season.

"What we're seeing is a lot like it was at the beginning in '09," Romar said. "The circumstances surrounding '09 was that we missed the NCAA tournament two consecutive years. We lost our first game of the year at Portland, and there were 7,200 maybe 7,300 fans at the games.

"This year, although we won the league last year, we didn't go to the tournament. I do believe the fans will come out. They came back out in '09. We started winning some, and there were sellouts."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @percyallen

Tough sell
Here's a look at home attendance figures in the Pac-12.
Team Arena Avg. attendance Capacity
Arizona McKale Center 13,843 14,545
Colorado Coors Event Center 10,194 11,064
UCLA Pauley Pavilion 8,807 12,819
Utah Huntsman Center 7,905 15,000
Washington Alaska Airlines Arena 7,466 10,000
California Haas Pavilion 7,379 11,877
Oregon Matthew Knight Arena 6,335 12,369
WSU Beasley Coliseum 5,002 11,671
Arizona State Wells Fargo Arena 4,953 14,198
Oregon State Gill Coliseum 4,628 10,400
Stanford Maples Pavilion 4,419 7,329
USC Galen Center 3,903 10,258

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