Students dressed in yellow and blue packed La Salle University’s Dan Rodden Theatre on Wednesday night as the Explorers men’s basketball team faced off against Boise State in their first game of the NCAA tournament.
They erupted with applause as La Salle scored the game’s first basket, a level of enthusiasm which lasted until the Explorers closed out a 81-70 victory in Dayton, Ohio.
It marked the team’s first tournament win since 1990. They will now face Kansas State in Kansas City, Mo. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. Friday.
Being 540 miles from the game itself did not faze La Salle students on the university’s 150th anniversary, a date that also marked 59 years to the day since La Salle’s lone NCAA basketball championship.
The scene on campus
While usually filling the student section at home game, fans watched it from afar with the truTV broadcast projected onto a big screen.
Students jumped from their seats, yelling and clapping as La Salle scored basket after basket. As the clock wound down on Boise State’s season, La Salle students lifted their hands in the air and counted down along with the clock.
Blasé Szyszko, a senior, noted that he’s seen student pride in the team grow over his years at the school.
“There’s a huge difference,” said Szyszko, a student-athlete who also serves as NCAA Division I representative for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Traveling to Dayton
Before junior Cameron Cabrera headed west to see the game with his own eyes, he said, “This is an incredible experience I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Cabrera said he tries to attend as many games as he can in a “sixth-man” capacity.
“I like to get the crowd going to inspire the team to do better than they are,” said Cabrera, who noted the scene has gone from one with empty seats to sellouts. “This is all part of going to a university. The basketball team is something students should be proud of.”
As for tournament success, Cabrera hoped it would translate into bigger things.
“We’re going to become a more nationally recognized, well-respected team,” he said.
Lianne F. McCluskey is a La Salle University student who writes for GermantownBeat, a local student-produced news site. NewsWorks features articles from GermantownBeat on its Northwest Philadelphia community sites and contributes multimedia journalism training to the program.