ARLINGTON -- For the UT Arlington men's basketball team, it was exit stage left.
A hard-fought 63-54 Southland Conference victory Saturday over Stephen F. Austin -- a school-record tying ninth consecutive triumph -- marked the end of men's basketball on the stage at Texas Hall.
The victory, though, was secondary, even for a team that at 6-0 is off to its best conference start since the 1990-91 season.
Leaving the basketball home they've known since 1965 couldn't have come fast enough for coach Scott Cross or a loyal group of fans eagerly anticipating beginning a new era with the opening of the new College Park Center on Feb. 1.
"I have a lot of memories here," said Cross, who played at UTA from 1995-98 before becoming an assistant coach. "But I can't wait to close the curtain and get started on a new era of UTA basketball."
A boisterous crowd of 1,262 watched the Mavericks do in the last game what the Arlington State College Rebels of 1965-66 couldn't do in their first game here in front of 1,200: Win.
Senior LaMarcus Reed, UTA's leading scorer, had 17 points, including a baseline jumper and driving left-handed lay-in in the final minute, during a 15-4 run that ended the game and handed Stephen F. Austin (9-9) its second loss in five conference games.
The Mavericks hit 11 of 12 free throws in the final minutes. Antonio Bostic led the Lumberjacks with 14 points.
UTA is putting together what coaches believe could be one of the finest seasons in school history.
The Mavericks (13-5) hit the road with games against Houston Baptist and Texas State before cutting the ribbon on the new arena against UT-San Antonio. UTA's women play two games this week.
"This is an emotional game," said Reed, who was 4-of-10 from the field before his late baskets. The fifth-year senior was 8-for-8 from the foul line.
"I played most of my college career here. Texas Hall has a warm spot in my heart."
The Mavericks faithful are hopeful UTA can establish a winning tradition with a state-of-the art arena, attracting quality players in recruiting and broadening the fan base.
Those who have followed the team are every bit as excited as the players about what will be a Taj Mahal game-watching experience compared to the last 46 seasons.
As they've done for years, Bill and Dawn Harp, students here in the mid-1960s, arrived early Saturday to claim "their" same seats in the first-come, first-served bleacher side of seating. They won't have to worry about that with reserved seating at College Park Center.
They joined in singing the school fight song one last time in the building during a closing ceremony that included school President James Spaniolo and former letterman Willie Brand, the only basketball player to have his number retired.
"This has been a long time coming," said David Daniel, a member of the Alumni Advisory Board who has been coming to games at Texas Hall since his days as a student from 1981-83. "It's kind of bittersweet, but when you step in the other place you won't be missing this place for too long."
Brand said of the former players, "This is our home. We look forward to moving on to bigger and better places, but we still love Texas Hall."