Today — meaning the day after the University of San Diego upset No.

20-ranked St. Mary’s 63-55 Monday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion — seems like a good time to follow up on my column about whether San Diego can become a good college basketball town.

USD, a small Catholic school, traditionally struggles to draw students and fans from around town, especially with USD’s six-week break between Christmas and resuming classes in late January.

But the students were not only back on campus for the start of school on Jan. 28, they filled the student section in a crowd of 2,787 at the 5,100-seat JCP. There is a distinct roar to a student section, and this was a night you could hear it.

You could hear the students roar when USD junior guard Brandon Johnson hit a three-point basket for a 51-48 lead with 3:55 left in the game.

They roared louder still when Johnson hit another three-pointer for a

56-48 lead and then stole a pass and scored on a fast break basket 11 seconds later for a 58-48 lead.

This time, when the game was over, USD coach Bill Grier didn’t have to send his players down to the student section to thank them for their support. He did that after a Nov. 17 loss to UNLV when there was an enthusiastic turnout, but this time the students beat him to it.

The students rushed the court and mobbed the players. They hoisted Johnson, who scored 25 points, on their shoulders and carried him around the court.

“It was awesome,” Grier said. “It‘s weird — the intersession they have here. It‘s like they roll up the sidewalks; it‘s like an old West town.

It‘s good to have the students back. As the game went on, the students kept building and building. We had players that were tired, but they got energy from the students.

“It was a great experience for our kids to have the students rush the floor. That was a great feeling for them they‘ll remember the rest of their lives. It was neat to see, and we have to build on that.”

That will be the difference between past big USD wins and San Diego becoming a college basketball town: Can the Toreros build on beating St. Mary’s?


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