With their home game televised for the first time in school history, the Saints put on an impressive show, beating Western Oregon, 85-54, after jumping out to a double-digit lead six minutes into the game.
The Saints got the big crowd and the win they wanted. In front of an estimated 1,600 fans, many decked out in Saints red, SMU never trailed, and led by double digits for most of the game.
“Give the assist to the crowd,” Saints coach Keith Cooper said. “I don’t think we could have lost with that kind of crowd. They were amazing.”
Poole led the Saints (11-6, 4-3 GNAC) with 26 points and 24 rebounds. He had 11 rebounds seven minutes into the game and broke the single-game record for rebounds for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“He was a man possessed,” Cooper said. “If you missed a shot, he was going to rebound it.”
The gym was rocking from the start. In a rowdy student section, fans were dressed in red “SMU” T-shirts, with one fan waving a sign that read “Fear Saints Nation.” In the introduction of Western Oregon’s starting lineup prior to the game, fans in the student section turned their backs to the court.
When the Saints starters were introduced, the fans erupted with thunderous chants of “SMU.”
“You have to go a long ways to find a better student section,” Cooper said. “We have 1,200 students and 600 of them were here.”
Playing off that electricity, SMU jumped out to a 6-0 lead, with Poole scoring two lay-ins. Leading 8-5 four minutes into the game, the Saints reeled off 15 straight points, taking a 23-5 lead on Poole’s 3-pointer and igniting the crowd.
Saint Martin’s led 41-22 at halftime, holding the Wolves to 28 percent shooting (8-for-28).
“The crowd played a big part,” said Saints forward Jeremy Green, who finished with 18 points. “They brought a lot of energy.”
The game was televised by FSN Northwest as part of a nine-game contract with the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Saints weren’t victims of either stage fright or Western Oregon’s defense. SMU shot 58 percent (17-for-29) in the second half and 50 percent (35-for-70) for the game.
After Poole’s put-back gave SMU an 83-53 lead with 2:08 left, the fans began to chant, “Up by 30.”
It was a game SMU was anxiously awaiting. Students pitched six tents outside of Marcus Pavilion, forming what they called “Cooper’s Town.”
The loss snapped Western Oregon’s two-game win streak, which included an overtime win against Western Oregon and a 15-point win against Simon Fraser. The Wolves dropped to 9-8 overall and 4-3 in the GNAC.
Other televised GNAC games scheduled by FSN Northwest include Simon Fraser at Northwest Nazarene on Jan. 19; Western Washington at Seattle Pacific on Jan. 26; Seattle Pacific at Central Washington on Feb. 9; Central Washington at Western Washington on Feb. 16; and Alaska Fairbanks at Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 23. The Seattle Pacific women’s game at Western Washington will be televised on Feb. 2.