NEW YORK — Hordes of them took the subway, others drove, some walked and many took the Long Island Railroad to Atlantic Terminal. A select few even flew.
Regardless of the way they arrived, the Michigan basketball team’s fans showed up in force at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, giving the Wolverines a de facto home game for the second straight evening, and the fourth time in three seasons.
Despite the late start — the game tipped off well after 10 p.m. — Michigan fans created an atmosphere that, at times, rivaled what is present throughout the year at Crisler Center.
While those fans who filled much of the arena’s lower bowl didn’t leave happy, they left a lasting impression after the Wolverines’ 60-55 loss to Villanova in the championship game of the Progressive Legends Classic.
“The atmosphere was like an NCAA Tournament atmosphere,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Here we are on November 25.”
Scott Rosenberg was one of many alumni who brought a few friends and family to Brooklyn to cheer on his alma mater. A 1987 graduate with a bachelor’s in economics from the University, Rosenberg drove in from Westchester, New York with a half-dozen middle-schoolers to celebrate to celebrate his son’s birthday.
His son and a few friends came out to support their team, creating signs for each letter in “Go Blue.”
“There’s a tremendous alumni base in New York,” Rosenberg said. “We can always get a big fan base to come out, whether it’s here, the Rutgers (football) game, anywhere.”
David Sklar, too, is a University graduate who lives in the New York area and takes advantage of every opportunity he gets to watch the Wolverines play. A New Jersey native now working as a lawyer in his home state, he sported a Fab Five-era No. 5 Jalen Rose jersey.
“I go to all the games when they’re in New York City,” Sklar said. “This crowd is a little more sparse, because it’s a weeknight.”
The crowd wasn’t even sparse, but Sklar has witnessed Michigan fans set a high bar for themselves. The Wolverines have already built a reputation of impressive fan support at Barclays Center in the arena’s two-year lifespan.
“This was our third time here, and each time has been a great experience for us,” Beilein said, referring to Michigan’s two prior appearances at the arena, including the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational Tournaments in December 2012 and December 2013.
At both games, Michigan faithful showed up en masse, helping the Wolverines to a pair of wins over power-conference opponents Stanford and West Virginia.
The support, though, wasn’t ever-present — Villanova took the Michigan crowd out of the game with a late first-half run that spilled over into the next period, giving the Wildcats a 33-20 lead.
But as soon as the Wolverines showed signs of life, the crowd roared its approval, first chanting “de-fense” after sophomore forward Zak Irvin drained a jumper to break Michigan’s scoring drought. Those fans then rose to their feet as Villanova called timeout following junior guard Spike Albrecht’s go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner.
And after, the crowd followed with a typical “Let’s Go Blue” chant, complete with cowbells and fanfare, just like an atmosphere usually only found in Ann Arbor.
“We have a really great fanbase,” said junior guard Caris LeVert, who earned All-Tournament honors after an 18-point performance Monday against Oregon and a 16-point effort Tuesday. “They really showed up.”