Saint Martin’s University and its men’s basketball team are ready for their close-up.
For the first time since 2011, the Saints will be on television. Their home game Thursday with the University of Alaska Fairbanks will be live on Root Sports at 9 p.m. as the network’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference game of the week.
The doors to Marcus Pavilion open at 8 p.m.
Before the game, the Worthington Center will host an alumni gathering at 7 p.m., and an on-campus tailgate begins at 7:30 p.m.
To entice fans, SMU is offering general admission tickets at a two-for-one price; tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for seniors, non-SMU students and military. Fans are encouraged to wear white, said Katie Simons, the university’s sports information director.
It marks the first regionally televised game for SMU since Jan. 11, 2011, when the Saints defeated Western Oregon, 85-54, on then-FSN Northwest.
The university has promoted the event for weeks, and the game
has created a big buzz on campus.
Coach Michael Ostlund hopes that kind of energy translates into a big showing as the Saints (6-9 overall, 3-4 GNAC) look to climb the conference standings with a victory over a Nanooks squad that’s tied for second with Western Washington at 5-2.
“If people are going to come out to one game this year, this is probably it,” Ostlund said. “When you’re going to be the featured conference game of the week, that raises it to another level.”
The Saints are coming off Saturday’s 79-73 road win at Western Oregon, where junior Ryan Rogers was one of four Saints to score in double figures with a game-high 19 points.
Thursday’s game is SMU’s first home contest while classes have been in session since its exhibition victory over The Evergreen State College on Nov. 5.
“Hopefully,” Ostlund said, “we’ll have a great student crowd.”
The Saints already have marquee victories this season over then-No. 11 Seattle Pacific, which sits atop the GNAC at 6-2, as well as road victories over Simon Fraser and Western Oregon.
The game is the third of an eight-game agreement with the GNAC and Root Sports to broadcast six men’s games and two women’s games. Other televised games are: Alaska Anchorage men at Western Washington on Feb. 1; Northwest Nazarene men at Western Oregon on Feb. 8; Central Washington men at Western Washington on Feb. 22; Simon Fraser men at Western Oregon on Feb. 26; and Simon Fraser women at Western Washington on March 1.
Root Sports is seen in 3.4 million homes across five Northwestern states.
SAINTS SOFTBALL TEAM PICKED TO REPEAT
Fresh off its best season in program history, which resulted in the GNAC title and an NCAA tournament berth, Saint Martin’s softball team was a unanimous pick to repeat as conference champion in the preseason coaches poll, released Wednesday.
The Saints, who return nine players from 2013, earned all seven first-place votes. Among the returnees are senior second baseman Lacey McGladrey, the reigning GNAC player of the year, and junior Sam Munger, the GNAC pitcher of the year. Munger will take a 26-game hitting streak, the 18th longest in Division II history, into this spring.
SMU’s season begins Feb. 1 with a doubleheader at California Baptist.
CASCADE CONFERENCE HONORS GRAY, JOHNSON
Evergreen’s Brittany Gray (women’s basketball) and Anthony Johnson (men’s indoor track and field) were named the Cascade Collegiate Conference’s athletes of the week in their sports, as announced by the conference.
Gray, a junior from Bainbridge Island, led the Geoducks to a sweep of Warner Pacific and Concordia in Portland last weekend, averaging 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds. At 8-8, Evergreen hosts Northwest Christian and Corban this weekend in Olympia.
Johnson, a freshman from Seattle, became the first NAIA high jumper to clear 7 feet this season, when he finished second at the UW Indoor Preview with a jump of 7-01/4 to break the school record by six inches. His mark automatically qualified him for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Ohio in March.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick