Seven hundred sixty-seven people filled the seats in Saturday’s annual homecoming men’s basketball game. Both students and alumni, parents and friends, young children and older couples. And chief among them all, Seattle Pacific President Daniel J. Martin.
SPU placed the No. 20 nationally ranked men’s basketball team in the spotlight for the afternoon, and the players thanked them accordingly with a 74-42 blowout win of Western Oregon.
“We always want to represent our alumni the right way,” head coach Ryan Looney said. “We want our program to be a reflection of our university’s mission, so we think it’s a special opportunity to put our guys on the stage to demonstrate that during homecoming weekend.”
Sitting up near the top of the middle section in the left side of the gym, Martin, known affectionately by some of the student body as D-Money, took in the game with his teenage son, Jacob. They watched in excitement as their team took control of the game early and never let go of momentum.
“I’m a sports fan. We’ll watch almost anything that’s on,” Martin said in an interview before the game. “I grew up as a basketball fan, especially, and watched it a lot with my father, so I love coming to the games. I try to attend as many as I can.”
Martin and the rest of the crowd had the opportunity to see much of the Falcons in action on Saturday, as the lopsided margin allowed multiple bench players to enter the game and get a chance to shine for a few minutes toward the end of the game.
Redshirt freshman guard Luke Hamlin, freshman forward Eric Morse, and sophomore forward Brendan Carroll all converted on 3-point attempts, while freshman center Joe Rasmussen registered four points.
It was the first shot of his collegiate career for Morse. In addition, Carroll also led both teams in rebounds with nine.
“They put just as much work in, if not more than, all of us who get to play a lot,” junior Idaho transfer Matt Borton said. “It’s good to let them get a little reward because all those guys can ball.”
“It’s important this late in the season, in February, to find ways to get everyone involved,” Looney said. “That keeps everyone motivated, and we were able to do that tonight.”
Another source of motivation for the Falcons is the backing of a solid home crowd, and Saturday marked the largest attendance total for Royal Brougham Pavilion since the preseason Sodexo Tip-Off Classic. The coaches and players would appreciate if the gym were consistently filled up.
“If there’s a way to improve our program, it’d be to try to make our gym look like it did tonight every night,” Looney said.
SPU alumnus and current SPU Intramural Director/Facility and Equipment Manager Adam Finch agrees wholeheartedly with that sentiment.
He feels there is an unfortunate disparity between how successful the team is and how much the team is embraced or cared about by the school.
“When I was a student, the stands were always filled even though we didn’t win many games,” Finch said. “Now I feel we’re the favorite in every game, and I think the energy the crowd brings is huge. I think we would have a very dominant home record if people were more supportive of the team and realized they played a part in how they affect the team.”
Finch, who graduated in 2002, feels the students at SPU aren’t giving the basketball team the recognition it deserves, and it’s a shame because it affects how other schools perceive it when their teams and fans come and play in Brougham.
“Basketball games are a public event where we get to show who we are,” Finch said. “If hardly anyone’s there and it’s not very exciting, then that’s what we’re showing people. I want SPU to be a vibrant place where there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm for our teams, so I would love to see that grow.”
Students and other fans will have to wait another week before trying to meet Finch’s challenge of home crowd support, as the Falcons travel to Alaska this week to take on Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponents Fairbanks and Anchorage on Thursday and Saturday respectively.
Riding a seven-game win streak, the team sits in first place in conference play at 9-2 and 18-4 overall.
Seven games remain in the regular season, and the squad aims to bring home a GNAC championship and eventually a national title for SPU.
No matter what happens, though, they can rest easy knowing they’ve earned the admiration of their school’s president.
“We’re proud of the team, and certainly proud of what they do on the court,” Martin said. “As I’ve watched them, I’ve been very pleased with how they respond to adversity and tough situations, as that’s when character is really displayed. They inspire our students to constantly achieve more and do better, and they’re just really fun to watch.”