The Saint Mary’s Gaels probably wish their matchup with Gonzaga would have been scheduled a week earlier.
Gonzaga’s student section, The Kennel Club, was back in full force.
The students had been on winter break until tonight, leaving an emptiness in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“Once the students get back in here, the band is going, the people are on their feet, then it becomes one of the best venues in college basketball,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few.
The Kennel’s impact can be felt in pregame warm-ups, key plays of the game, and the final minutes as the clock ticks closer to another Bulldog win.
With four minutes and eight seconds remaining in the first half, Johnathan Williams threw down a dunk to give the Zags a 36-32 lead.
The arena erupted.
“It was crazy, I couldn’t hear myself think for a second,” Williams said about the noise level following his one-handed slam.
But the noise level reached its peak after tight Gonzaga defense forced St. Mary’s to call a timeout and narrowly escape a five second foul.
“I’ve never heard the Kennel that loud. I’ve never been a part of a game that loud,” said freshman Zach Collins.
Williams had another dunk late in the second half that caused the McCarthey to explode with noise and energy once again.
To close out the game, the Kennel got creative with some chants for the visiting Gaels.
“Up by 20,” “Undefeated,” and the lyrics to Steam’s hit song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” rang through the arena.
The Bulldogs have only lost in the McCarthey eight times since its opening in November 2004. One of the losses was last year when Saint Mary’s defeated the Bulldogs 63-58.
“It’s the toughest game on the schedule every year because of (the atmosphere),” said Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett.
The Kennel is a major reason the McCarthey Athletic Center remains one of the toughest places to play in college basketball.
“We are lucky to have a crowd like that, we missed the student section. It’s good to have them back,” Collins said.
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