COLUMBIA — Attendance at Missouri women's basketball games has not been fewer than 1,000 since the team's opening exhibition match against Central Missouri last season.
That changed Wednesday in Missouri's 76-69 win over Nebraska. There was no official attendance count because fans got in free of charge in response to the blizzard that hit Columbia on Wednesday. But even Missouri assistant coach Willie Cox noticed less fans filling the stands at Mizzou Arena.
"If I had to give a guesstimation, I'd say there were 300 people here tonight," Cox said.
Despite more than 17 inches of snow covering Columbia, James Jorgenson and two of his daughters made the trip from Macon to watch the women's team play. The Jorgenson family lives roughly six miles outside of Macon, a town which lies roughly 60 miles north of Columbia.
Jorgenson got the idea of making the trip to Columbia on Wednesday morning while he was browsing the Internet for an activity for his daughters. He saw an advertisement announcing the MU women's basketball game would be free.
"They were having cabin fever. They wanted to get out of the house, with no school the last two days," Jorgenson said. "I couldn't get home because the roads were too bad, so I thought, 'Why not come to the basketball game?'"
Unlike his daughters, Jorgenson had not been home since Tuesday morning. He works as a chiropractor in the city of Macon, and the snow trapped him there. He didn't even have the chance to stop by his house to pick up his daughters before the game.
"Our neighbors have their driveway to their house cleared. So I pulled into their driveway, and the girls had to walk across the field to get to me," Jorgenson said. "The country roads are not cleared."
Jorgenson and his daughters are not alone in traveling. His 50th birthday is on Friday, and his mother, two sisters and son are traveling from southern California to spend time in Macon.
"They're coming in from that balmy weather out there to this," Jorgenson said. "This is the most (snow) I've seen in the 18 years since I moved here."
The Nebraska women's basketball team made sure to get to Missouri before the blizzard. After spending Monday night in Kansas City, the team made it to their hotel in Columbia early Tuesday.
"We've been here a lot," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said after the game. "This is going to be a 66-hour trip for us, but that's no excuse."
Both the MU band and the cheerleading squad were absent from Wednesday's game, adding to a quiet atmosphere for much of the game. Missouri fans showed their disagreement with the refs about an offensive foul called on Missouri guard RaeShara Brown early in the second half, but Missouri coach Robin Pingeton's voice could still be heard throughout the arena as she shouted in frustration to the nearest ref.
"We told the girls at pregame, the atmosphere is going to be like a glorified pick-up game," Pingeton said. "We had to get our legs right from the start because they had to understand there is not going to be as much energy from our crowd."
According to Pingeton, the Tigers were not immune to travel problems. She said five Missouri coaches were stranded before the game and couldn't make it until 10 minutes before Wednesday's shoot-around. She added that several Missouri players had to walk two or three blocks in high snow drifts just to get to a main street to get a ride.
Pingeton said that Nebraska did not have to face these difficulties.
"It's nice to be in that hotel and have that warm bus come and pick you up," Pingeton said.