Ann Arbor — Game after game, the wins piled up and the fans piled in at Crisler Center.
So when Michigan capped the home portion of its schedule on Thursday, it did so in fitting fashion with another resounding win in front of another sellout crowd.
And another 12,707 tickets sold for the 29-point pounding of Nebraska pushed the season attendance to 225,079 over 18 games — the second-highest total in program history and most since the 1985-86 season’s total of 259,160.
“The support that they give us is amazing — the Maize Rage, all the fans, all the love they show for us,” junior center Jon Teske said after the home finale. “We bring them energy and they give us energy. We wanted to give them a show and I think that’s what we did.”
The Wolverines gave their fans plenty to cheer about all season. They went 17-1 at home with 14 victories by double digits and an average win margin of 16.1 points, and fell one game short — a 77-70 loss to Michigan State — of becoming the third Michigan team to go unbeaten at Crisler Center since it opened in 1967.
Even despite times of dangerously cold temperatures and harsh weather, Michigan closed out the season with 15 straight sellouts, which tied 2012-13 for the second most and trails the high of 19 in 1985-86.
“I love our fans, I really do. I love the Maize Rage, all the donors, all the fans that like to get up and even come to the early games at noon,” sophomore forward Isaiah Livers said. “I know it’s really hard, especially with the Michigan weather. I remember one game this year it was bad outside and we still almost sold out the whole crowd. I was just like, ‘Wow, these fans are crazy.’ ”
It wasn’t always like that and Michigan coach John Beilein can attest. When Beilein took over in 2007-08, his team went 6-9 at home, sold out one game and played in front of an average crowd of 10,034.
It’s worth noting Crisler Center’s capacity exceeded 13,500 until 2011. Renovations and expansion lowered the total to 12,721 in 2011-12 and 12,693 in 2012-13 before settling on the 12,707 it has held since.
Beilein said improvements to the arena — from the lighting and bathrooms to the concessions and in-game entertainment — have been part of a “terrific change” that has made the game-day experience better and more efficient for fans of all ages since he arrived 12 years ago.
“But then you can do all those things like crazy and if you’re not winning there’s not going to be anybody here,” Beilein said.
That hasn’t been the case this season. Michigan got off to a program-best 17-0 start, was one of the last unbeaten teams left standing in the nation and has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. Of course, it also helped that Michigan was coming off an appearance in the national title game.
At home, the Wolverines racked up five wins over ranked foes — No. 11 North Carolina, No. 19 Purdue, No. 21 Indiana, No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 24 Maryland — in front of an average crowd of 12,504. That put Crisler Center at 98.4-percent capacity for the season, a mark that ranks second during Beilein’s tenure (99.9 percent in 2013-14) and seventh in the arena’s 52-year history.
For Beilein, two game environments stood out: North Carolina and Purdue.
“There were a couple plays in both those games — for some reason North Carolina is standing out where we had some steals and it’s a big ESPN, 9 p.m. game — and you really felt the crowd, you felt the atmosphere,” Beilein said. “It was as good as college basketball can get.
“Then when we go through the gamut of the other games we had some really good Saturday, Sunday games and the Ohio State (game). There were moments in all those games that it was like, ‘Man, we’re having fun. Our fans are having fun. This is great.’ ”
Beilein added the biggest difference he noticed was the student support.
“That goes up and down at every university and that’s based on winning, that’s based on tradition,” he said. “We’ve established that again and now we want to keep that going.”
The best way to do it?
“If you win,” Beilein said, “they will come.”
Top attendance at Crisler Center
►1985-86: 259,160; 19 games; 19 sellouts
►2018-19: 225,079; 18 games; 15 sellouts
►2014-15: 221,690; 18 games; five sellouts
►1986-87: 220,339; 18 games; five sellouts
►2012-13: 218,490; 18 games; 15 sellouts