Bender Arena felt like a real college basketball stadium and the men's hoops team looked like a real team on Saturday afternoon when it took down Vermont in arguably the most exciting home game since the Patriot League championship game in 2002.
The normally reserved, offish, elitist, "I'm too tired to cheer because I've been studying cross-cultural communications" (or some similar waste-of-time homework) crowd that has come to typify AU school spirit took on a different tune for the 1:00 p.m. game.
A record number of probably 100 students did something incredible for AU: They made a lot of noise. And in Bender Arena, which is about as big as a middle school gym, there's a unique opportunity to be heard whenever you say anything.
The Screaming Eagles, AU's unofficial student fan group, which tends to feature a kid with streamers coming out of the back of his hat, a couple other guys and our beloved Student Confederation President Polson Kanneth, must have been pretty stoked to have been joined by the few other people who give a crap about our school.
On the floor, the Eagles looked like a team ready to have a great season. Saturday's performance gives me reason to believe that this is the year our boys can take us dancing into the NCAA tournament.
Prior to this latest game, the University of Vermont Catamounts and its preseason honorable mention All-American, Taylor Coppenrath, was given more ink and hype in national publications than any mid-major conference team in the country.
They had been picked by basketball junkies to storm through the America East Conference and even be a sleeper team that could make a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in March.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have been picked to finish second or third in the PL in most preseason polls.
Those things obviously mean nothing, if Saturday is any indication.
Senior Jason Thomas and sophomore Andre Ingram are on the brink of becoming two of the legitimate stars of the PL this season. Both have shown that they can play on a big stage.
Early in the season, Ingram went off for 38 points against Virginia Commonwealth University in the first round of the preseason National Invitational Tournament. On Saturday, Ingram scored 19 points, including four three-pointers. He is shooting the ball with confidence, and his teammates are getting him the ball in rhythm for high-percentage looks at the hoop.
Thomas, who has been a steady presence on the team since his sophomore year, has always been a very good defender capable of running the floor and making big plays when given the chance. Now he has added a consistent jump shot to his repertoire and provides opponents with another explosive threat.
Thomas' 23 points on Saturday equaled a career high. He was everywhere the Eagles needed him to be - both defensively and offensively - making play after play to keep the Eagles out of Vermont's reach.
With a solid group of contributors surrounding our big guns in Thomas and Ingram, this is finally the year - the year we cease to be known as the Philadelphia Eagles or the Buffalo Bills of the PL.