ARLINGTON -- UT Arlington men's coach Scott Cross faced the unenviable task of trying to convince his basketball team that Wednesday's game against UT San Antonio was just another game.
Good luck with that.
The truth is this Southland Conference matchup between West Division front-runners was far different than any game the Mavericks have played in the school's history.
The stage at Texas Hall has been replaced finally with a legitimate stage for Division I basketball.
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Only a little more than a week after closing its auditorium home, UTA christened its 7,000-seat College Park Center with victories against UTSA , the women winning 51-40 and the men by 67-66.
What they debuted is an environment fit for college basketball programs and a building sturdy enough to handle the deafening calls of "UTA, UTA, UTA."
A noisy and attentive crowd of 6,228 fed big UTA runs throughout the first half, including 11-0 at the start of the game and an 8-0 run at the end of the first half, capped by LaMarcus Reed's breakaway dunk with 14 seconds remaining that had the UTA partisans on their feet.
"That noise gets the adrenaline pumping," said Reed, who had 24 points. "As soon as I heard the standing ovation the first time we came out of the tunnel, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh.'
"It was a big deal for us and helped us throughout the game at times when UTSA made their runs, and we made a bucket or a steal, and it gave us the extra energy to make our push."
The men's victory only polished the shine of the building and improved the mood of the house-warming party.
There was much, much more to celebrate, not the least of which is the availability of more than one concession stand, and a men's team leading the pack in the Southland at 8-0 after extending a school-best winning streak to 12.
"It's been a whirlwind. It's been a little crazy," said Cross, who acknowledged his usual gameday anxiety was a little more pronounced on this big day.
The morning was typical, he said. Watching film and making other game preparations before the shootaround.
"After that it was a little different," Cross said. "Normally, I'd go back to the office and do some work, but I hung around the locker room. You really just want to hang out in here, it's that nice. It's awesome. They have everything. They didn't leave anything out."
It was probably fitting that the men's victory was every bit as difficult as getting this arena built: more than 30 years in the making and more hoping than planning.
A turnover-filled second half had the faithful wondering. Not until the last second ticked off were the UTA fans absolutely sure of victory.
But all were worth the wait.
"This is awesome," said Bill Reeves, a longtime athletic department official and one-time athletic director who retired Tuesday.
As a college student, he played in the old gym, from 1959 to '62, coached at Texas Hall, and is now a season-ticket holder at the new arena.
"I'm so excited. I have tears in my eyes."