Saint Mary's appearance in the Big Dance short lived

Saint Mary's appearance in college basketball's Big Dance was a short one- a first round loss to Villanova, 61-57.

But Gaels fans watching on the Moraga campus still found something positive to come away with.

"They just kept fighting and that's what I love about this team, they always fight," said freshman Mikey Burkland, from Alamo.

Burkland and his friends were in the front row of a watch party watching the game on a big screen. 
Hundreds of students packed Dryden Hall to watch the game, played in Connecticut. 

The game was tight, especially the first half with several ties and lead changes, and the Gaels went into half time with a two point lead. 

"There's nothing better than this, watching our Gaels, I just hope we can play a good second half," said Burkland midway through the contest. 

It was Saint Mary's tenth entry to the NCAA tournament, including five trips in the past nine years.
Although students graduate and move on, some longtime staff have seen them all. 

"That's the thing, you can never underestimate the Gaels, never," said development staffer Claudine Roselle Puente, "and we're going up a team that won last year's tournament so this is really exciting for us".

Watching alongside Puente: technology professor Carl Thelen.

"I'm sure there are students right now, with the game on one screen and their homework on the other," joked Thelen, "but I'm an optimist!"   

A few textbooks were spotted at the watch party, but open only during time-outs. 

Everyone was rooting for another upset, like the one that advanced the Gaels, over powerhouse Gonzaga.  

"After that game, people were running around campus screaming, hugging and hitting each other," said Drew Gai, a senior from Folsom.

"It was pretty awesome, pretty wild, and I was definitely participating in that."

But in Thursday night's game, shots weren't falling; Villanova grabbed the momentum and the lead, and held them until the end. 

"We were doing so well and then we just choked, that sucks," said junior Jian Bumatay, of Benicia.
"They didn't want to shoot, I mean I get it, it's nervewracking". 

Amid the disappointment though, pride.

"Look at this energy, excitement, the possibilities," said fan Mark Davidson, who came from his Moraga home to watch the game on campus with students.  

"We came within a couple of points, which is pretty good. I'm proud of them, proud to be part of the community and part of the Gaels."  

Mikey Burkland, who attended every home game, is certain he'll see his team rack up more wins, and more tournament slots during his coming three years at Saint Mary's. 

"You just got to give it up to theses guys," said an emotional Burkland, "and I feel for them, their hearts are hurting right now, but what a year!"