A great showing: Sponsors give away thousands of tickets to ISU's Saturday game

Jan. 25—A free, 2,000-ticket giveaway to the next home game for ISU men's basketball drew plenty of takers Thursday morning at Culver's on U.S. 41 South.

Distribution, which was to have begun at 10 a.m. started early, and by 11 a.m., those tickets were gone, with more tickets on the way.

Another 1,000 free tickets were made available.

Allie Funkhouser quickly made the trip from work to Culver's and then had to quickly return to work. An Indiana State University graduate, she's excited about the team's success this year.

And clearly, so were those who waited in line both inside and outside the restaurant.

"The turnout is great. I think it's great marketing for the community, university and the basketball program," said Corey Clark, ISU assistant athletic director for sponsorships.

The ISU Alumni Association and Foundation also had representatives assisting with the effort.

ISU plays Bradley at 6 p.m. Saturday in Hulman Center, and the game will be nationally televised.

ISU's record is now 17-3 and 8-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores are in first place in the conference.

"I think this team is one of the best offensive teams in the nation. The stats show it," Clark said. "They deserve a packed house."

A packed Hulman Center is good not only for the basketball team and ISU, but local businesses as well, Clark said.

The large turnout Thursday shows "they want to come and support the basketball team," Clark said. The hope is those who attend Saturday will continue attending games and "make this the basketball town it is."

Ticket sponsors were Culver's and several other businesses. Matt Bilyeu, Culver's franchise owner, is an ISU graduate.

"We bleed blue at Culver's and at ISU," Bilyeu said. "The team is a fun, exciting team and they thrive on that community support."

Fern Edwards, who is retired from the Vigo County School Corp., was among those who went to Culver's for basketball tickets.

"I thought it was such a nice opportunity to take the family and go to a game and support the Sycamores," she said. "It should be a really great game."

She worked at Ambrosini's when Larry Bird played at ISU. After those games, "We used to pack the place all the time," she said.

Fast forward to 2024, "It's nice to see something exciting happening in town," Edwards said.

Also standing in line for tickets were Justin Thompson and Beth Harden.

"It's been a while since the Larry Bird days, and now they're doing better," Thompson said. "It's exciting to see."

Another fan, Christina Lee, already had a ticket, but "there are some kids on my boyfriend's bus route who want some tickets, so I said I'd come get them for them," she said.

The ISU men's basketball team "is having an amazing season," she said. She found the turnout for the ticket giveaway "impressive."

In addition to Culver's, other free ticket sponsors were Grayless Heating and Cooling, Peak Performance Gym, Fuson Automotive, Wright's Pool Service, WTWO-TV 2, U.S. Lawns and Republic Services.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue