The Oregon State Beavers beat the UTEP Miners 75-69 on Monday night at Gill Coliseum. The fact that the Beavers scored 75 points and won is impressive. The fact that four players other than Calvin Haynes scored in double digits was also impressive.
But perhaps the most impressive number on the stat sheet is Monday's attendance- - 8,029.
The effort that the Beavers displayed against UTEP in Game One of the CBI Championship was palpable. These guys were hustling after loose balls, and aggressive on both ends of the floor. They may have not been the best team on the court athlete for athlete, but they got the job done-- and led by 21 at one point.
Oregon State basketball is back. A year removed from going 0-18 in Pac-10 conference play and losing the last 21 games of the season, everyone is giddy again. The Beavers are averaging a thousand more fans on average per game this season than last season.
It's been a complete attitude change.
All of you who played high school varsity sports, especially basketball, know what it's like in the locker room after you lose your last game, especially if it's in the state playoffs. And I'm sure some of you know what that bus ride is like when you lose on the road to end the season. It's no fun-- for the seniors who have likely played their last game ever, or the juniors and underclassmen.
If Oregon State wins either Wednesday or Friday in El Paso, they will not have that experience. Rickey Claitt's last college basketball memories will not be of a sullen, depressed locker room. They will likely be of a successful turnaround season, when a head coach turned a group of losers into a group of winners.
And most of it was mental.
The mindset has changed at Oregon State-- for the players, and the fans. People are going to games because it's fun to watch, and fun to be a part of. No longer are we drawn to Gill because the discounted ticket deals that the marketing department used to offer for the sole purpose of filling seats-- we're drawn to what is happening on the court. It's exciting.
Gill Coliseum is now a fun place to watch college basketball again. The improved success of the team raises the value of 'Legendary' Gill, does it not? It's now a landmark on campus that you can walk by and be proud of, because of what's happening inside.
The Beavers played their last game of the season at Gill Coliseum on Monday, unless the tournament of champions calls next. And 8,029 people walked out of the building last night after a win-- feeling refreshed, accomplished, and excited for what's to come.
With a win in Game 1 of the CBI under their belts, the Beavers will now head to El Paso, where they'll play in Game 2 of the Series on Wednesday, and Game 3 if necessary.
The CBI is no College World Series, but a win on either Wednesday or Friday would go a long way to accelerate the turnaround the already rejuvenated basketball program.