Packed Allen Fieldhouse Celebrates 25th Annual Late Night in the Phog
Oct. 16, 2009
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Groups of fans began camping outside historic Allen Fieldhouse at 8 a.m. on what is the first official day of practice for college basketball. By the time the doors opened more than nine hours later, the lines snaked almost a block both ways on Naismith Drive.
Inside the Fieldhouse, people packed the remodeled concourses and admired the more than $50 million in renovations, including the new donor atrium and a remodeled Booth Family Hall of Athletics. And that was just the beginning of the festivities surrounding the 25th anniversary of Late Night in the Phog.
Once both teams finally took the floor to give the capacity crowd their first taste of Kansas basketball to kick off the 2009-10 season, the 16,300 people packing Allen Fieldhouse to the rafters made the event yet another Late Night to remember.
"It's good for the program, and it's good for the kids," KU women's basketball head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "Great energy, great atmosphere and the kids have a lot of fun at this. It's exciting to see everyone that's here and feel that energy."
Henrickson's sixth team at Kansas, picked by the Big 12 coaches to finish second in the conference and coming off a year in which they hosted the WNIT final, took the court first. Senior forward Danielle McCray, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, headlined the blue team while her senior counterpart, guard Sade Morris, led the red squad.
Even though the red team squeaked by the blue team 11-10 with sophomore Aishah Sutherland leading both sides with four points, McCray said she thought her last Late Night was the perfect beginning to what both she and Henrickson hope will be a banner season.
"It just feels great to come out in front of all these people and have fun, entertain them," McCray said.
Following the women's scrimmage, men's head coach Bill Self took the floor to raucous applause and his players followed with four skits drawn from Late Nights past, capped by seniors Sherron Collins and Mario Little grooving to Michael Jackson.
The real business began when the lights dimmed, the crowd rose to its feet and Self's Jayhawks emerged from the smoke and flashing lights to the raucous approval of the Allen Fieldhouse crowd.
Collins led the blue team accompanied by Mario Little, Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Tyrel Reed at the opening tip while Cole Aldrich's starting red squad consisted of Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey.
Releford got the 20-minute intrasquad scrimmage off to a flying start, throwing down an alley-oop from Taylor before freshman Xavier Henry entered the game for Little. He finished with six points and three steals.
"It was special with 16,300 people," Xavier Henry said. "It's a lot different than a high school game."
Collins led his side to a 42-39 victory and showed the form that earned him Preseason Co-Big 12 Player of the Year honors along with Aldrich. In this his last Late Night, Collins, who addressed the crowd following the scrimmage, scored eight points and dished out three assists. Robinson made his mark early, hitting a three-pointer and displaying a penchant for drawing contact and altering shots while scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds.
Releford and Markieff led the way for their respective sides with 15 points each and made 12 of 13 shots combined while Taylor had five assists for the red team.
Most of the all, the night was a chance to knock the rust off while celebrating 25 years of Late Night in the Phog.
"It was just fun," C.J. Henry said. "We just went out there and tried to play hard, keep it clean and keep it crisp. We just wanted to have fun for the fans."