By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer, Video by Marquis Cooley | Broadcast Reporter
To celebrate the Bears reaching the NCAA men’s basketball championship game, Student Activities held a watch party at McLane Stadium for students and the Waco community. Even with masks being enforced, fans were constantly standing and hyping up the Bears from home.
Students were welcome to sit on the turf or in the stands, and had multiple free food options, including Pop’s Lemonade, Pizza Hut and Guess Family Barbecue.
Austin junior Madeline Smyser said she had a hard time going to basketball games during the regular season, but once the Bears made it to the tournament, she kept up with each game they played.
“When we made it to the Final Four, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, wait we really have a chance,’ and so that’s when I really started paying attention,” Smyser said. “I thought we came out so strong and it was so good, and then they gained on us a little bit. I believe in us though.”
In the weeks leading up to Monday night’s game, students grew more and more excited as the team advanced in the tournament.
Although the championship game didn’t start until 8:20 p.m., the stadium’s gates opened at 7 p.m., and students started to line up outside as early as around 6 p.m.
Throughout the night, the students’ excitement seemingly never faltered. Smyser shared her own experience of what lead up to the game.
“Over Easter weekend, I was at home, and my little brother loves Baylor basketball. And so we talked about it all weekend and getting super hyped for this night,” Smyser said.
The Bear’s win on Monday marked the first National Championship title for the men’s basketball team. The Bears had advanced to the final only once before, in 1948, losing to Kentucky 58-42. Smyser said she felt grateful for the opportunity to be in person on the field to watch.
Cypress senior Lauren Curtis, who was a freshman when the women’s basketball team won the NCAA tournament in 2019, shared how this is a win not just for the basketball team, but for all of Baylor.
“I think that it is great for Baylor moving forward. This will definitely boost morale and build school spirit,” Curtis said.
With every whoosh of a free throw and clean 3-pointer, the field packed with students erupted with energy. While President Linda Livingstone stated that classes are to continue on Tuesday, she also said it is important to celebrate this win for Baylor.
“My favorite part was it feeling semi-normal being surrounded by people at McLane and getting to cheer the Bears on with large groups of people,” Curtis said.