I knew this was a big game when my car hit the the Reese Court parking lot. It was full - a first this year.
More confirmation came when I walked in the door and took my seat at courtside for Eastern's big win over Sacramento State. I was flanked by Seattle Times columnist Bud Withers and our own John Blanchette. At either end of the court, the TV cameras were in position - more than I'd seen in three-plus years of covering this team.
Want more? In the men's room before the game, I overheard three guys talking about going to their first EWU basketball game - ever. "You guys are students?" I asked.
"Seniors" one answered. Wow.
The trio filed off, joining 3,111 others at Reese Court - the biggest crowd at Reese in three years. The Eagles did draw 3,612 for a regular-season game in 2012, but that was Fan Appreciation Night, with about 1,000 kids receiving autographed posters.
There were no posters on Thursday night, but the fans appreciated the moment nonetheless: in case you missed the point, Eastern is alone in first place in the Big Sky Conference. The cheers were loud and the fans (especially the students behind me) were immersed the game.
Coach Jim Hayford repaid the compliment in his post-game comments before a media throng that hit double digits (another first):
"Great Eastern crowd," Hayford said."More so just because you recruit all these guys to a vision of what could be ... when you're 18 to 22 years old, that's the kind of atmosphere you dream of," Hayford said.
More dreams await.