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SMSU’s 6th man plays its role at tournament time

March 17, 2009
Kelsey Duckett

During the most crucial time of the season, the sixth-man has stepped up and brought life into the R/A Facility. Homecourt advantage is a reward and the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs are cashing in.

"It's a big advantage when you can play home games," SMSU senior Ryan Krome said. "In the playoffs your seed doesn't matter. It is anyone's game - to have home court advantage is a big deal."

The advantages of playing in your home arena are many, but it isn't the simple factors like sleeping in your own bed, having the comforts of home and familiarity of playing in a facility that you have practiced in all season that mean the most. Instead it's the electrifying crowd that is on your side no matter the situation.

"The biggest bonus to playing at home is playing in front of enthusiastic fans," SMSU head coach Greg Stemen said. "It is a great reward and I am very happy that we have gotten to experience it."

The Mustang men's basketball program has had the goal of playing for their fans and their community all season, Stemen said.

"I have challenged our guys to get the crowd excited and involved no matter the size," he said. "We want to do something the crowd can get enthusiastic about and once they do, it is a great relationship - the crowd picks the guys up and the guys inspire the crowd."

The players and coaching staff feel is it is a reward to be able to play in front of such large crowds that are Mustang-dominant. Stemen said to have the support of the crowd is an honor.

"We are grateful for the crowd," he said. "It isn't just Marshall and our students - it is the surrounding community and we play for them and for the name on the front of our jersey. The least we can do is go out and compete for our fans."

Sunday night's game featured a crowd 3,333 people with more than half supporting brown and gold. Friday was the beginning of Spring Break for the SMSU students, but one student held up a sign at Sunday's game that said she was spending her Spring Break with the Mustangs - not in Mexico.

"It got so loud at times that you couldn't hear anything on the court," Krome said. "The crowd has just been tremendous and it means a lot for us for a crowd to come out and support us."

Fellow senior Ross DeMasi echoed Krome saying how meaningful it was to have a crowd with such support and enthusiasm for Mustang basketball - back when Krome and DeMasi were freshmen the Mustangs definitely weren't playing in front of a full-house.

"Four years ago I never would have thought we would get crowds like this," DeMasi said. "It is so awesome how the R/A has been filled with people. They are definitely our sixth-man and they mean so much to us - we are all a family."

Another benefit of playing in front of your hometown faithful is the energy they can bring to the court. On Sunday, Taylor Huseby picked up his third foul of the half and was called to the bench - as the fans moaned in anger at the call - Huseby, instead of arguing or becoming frustrated, saw this as a moment of opportunity.

As Huseby walked past coach Stemen to his place on the bench, he gestured and yelled at the crowd, firing up his teammates and putting the fans on their feet.

No matter the level, basketball is a game of making runs. Every team will make a run at some point in the game. It is how a team responds to the run that will win or lose the game - this is where the crowd comes in.

As soon as you think a team can't come back, the student section starts a chant that stirs in the arena and feeds the players with the spark of energy they need to continue and make a stop on the defensive end and drill a three-pointer on the offensive end.

"The crowd gave me an unexplainable rush," DeMasi said when talking about the eruption after his dunk in the second half of Sunday's game against Minnesota State, Mankato. "It was a great feeling and I think their energy gave me a little extra height on the blocked shot on the next possession."

Tonight as you enter the R/A Facility, remember you can play a vital role in the Mustangs' game by getting on your feet and supporting them through the good times and the bad.

All season long the SMSU men's basketball team has laid it on the line and given everything they have - tonight, in the Mustangs' final home game of the season, it is time for us to lay everything on the line for them.



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