As I pulled into the parking lot, I was surrounded by UCLA fans. They were everywhere. The UCLA light blue seemed to permeate the surroundings, from the sky to the asphalt. It was not surprising.
On Sunday, the CSUSB men’s basketball team took on the legendary UCLA Bruins at Citizens Business Bank Arena. It was a David vs. Goliath situation. The CSUSB team is good, but it is a Division II school while UCLA is not only a Division I school but one of the most, if not the most, prestigious college basketball program in the entire country.
So it made sense that UCLA fans would outnumber CSUSB fans even if the arena was closer to San Bernardino than Los Angeles.
And after entering the arena, the UCLA band and cheerleaders stood out amongst the crowd as did the thousands of UCLA fans that dominated the lower level seating. It was impossible to look past. The CSUSB team now had to battle a much more talented UCLA team and a crowd that would inevitably give the Bruins an advantage.
I underestimated the passion that CSUSB and its fans had for its basketball team. Surprisingly, it felt like a home game for the Coyotes at times. After taking a small lead late in the second half, the arena erupted with the cheers and celebrations of the Coyotes faithful. It was almost deafening.
Where was all this cheering coming from? I looked behind me and into the second level seats where there were hundreds, if not thousands, of rabid CSUSB fans cheering as loud as they could for their Coyotes to pull off what would be a miraculous upset.
There were signs, faces painted and school spirit evident from every seat in every section in the upper level.
It did not matter that UCLA fans dominated the lower level of the arena; the Coyotes were not going to let that deter them from showing their pride and support for our team.
It surprised me, to be honest. I was hoping for a good crowd for us, but this far exceeded my hopes.
The fans even made UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland say after the game in press conference that it felt like a road game at times. It was a scheduled “home game, on the road.” That is impressive.
Alas, the Coyotes and their support fell just short of shocking the Bruins, but the passion the team and its fans showed all night gave UCLA all it could handle for 40 minutes of play.
I, for one, am hoping that support is maintained throughout the year as the Coyotes look to make a run at a CCAA championship.