MORAGA, Calif. -- McKeon Pavilion has long been a dependable difference maker for the Saint Mary's men's basketball team.
This season, that home court advantage is certainly living up to its reputation.
A sellout crowd of 3,500 took in Saturday's 84-72 win over Pepperdine, continuing a season-long trend of strong fan support.
And, in recent games, the Gael Force student section has been even more vocal, creating the kind of atmosphere that turns good college basketball teams into great ones.
"Our crowds have been good all year. I can't remember a game this year where it wasn't pretty much sold out," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "It's great having the students back. They create an excitement, so it's been fun to have them. It's a huge advantage for us."
The numbers are convincing when it comes to analyzing what kind of impact home cooking has had for the Gaels.
They are 12-0 overall at home this season, and over the last six seasons, the Gaels have lost just once at home to a WCC opponent other than Gonzaga. Over that stretch, Saint Mary's is 36-4 against conference opponents at home.
"We went on the road for a while there, and it's great to be back and playing in front of a loud home crowd," said guard Matthew Dellavedova. "It's always fun to play here."
That success has also been a factor in non-conference play. The Gaels currently own a 16-game home win streak against teams outside the WCC, dating back to a loss to Kent State on March 15, 2011.
Saint Mary's will wrap up its non-conference slate this season with an ESPN Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters matchup in late February.
The power of McKeon will only be magnified over the next few weeks. Portland visits on Feb. 2, then Gonzaga comes in for a Valentine's Day matchup on Feb. 14 that is sure to be one of the loudest nights of the year. BYU is next on Feb. 21.
"I don't know if our guys know, but they're playing in a special place at a special time," Bennett said. "Just this atmosphere, Saturday afternoon, 3 o'clock, you come in, it's packed. That's pretty cool. Not many teams get that."