Saint Mary's fans gather for early morning send-off

March 25, 2010 12:35:53 PM PDT
About 100 students, faculty members, staff and fans woke up early this morning to cheer on the Saint Mary's College men's basketball team as it headed from Moraga to a Sweet 16 NCAA tournament game against Baylor University in Houston on Friday.

Saint Mary's won its first NCAA tournament game in more than 50 years on Thursday when the team defeated the University of Richmond. The 10th-seeded Gaels followed that up with an upset win over Villanova University, a No. 2 seed, on Saturday.

The wins, the college's first postseason victories since 1959, have caused "an outpouring of enthusiasm" on campus, Saint Mary's spokesman Mike McAlpin said.

"This is a territory we haven't been in for quite a long time," he said.

About 100 of what McAlpin called the "die-hard" fans woke up early to gather in front of McKeon Pavilion on campus for a 7 a.m. send-off as the team departed for Houston.

Saint Mary's is also hosting a viewing party at AT&T Park for fans interested in watching Friday's game on the stadium's large, high-definition scoreboard.

The party, funded by some college alumni, is free. Parking will be offered for $5 in Lot A at the stadium.

The college is providing buses for students interested in going to AT&T Park from campus, but McAlpin said the event is open to the general public as well.

"Hopefully all the Bay Area's a St. Mary's fan by now," he said.

The game against third-seeded Baylor is scheduled to tip off at 4:27 p.m. PST on Friday. Doors will open at 3:45 p.m. for the viewing party at AT&T Park.