Archive for Sunday, March 31, 1991


March 31, 1991


— It was an unbelievable and unforgettable night.

Kansas University fans screamed themselves hoarse, then screamed some more as their Jayhawks beat North Carolina, 79-73, in a semifinal game of the NCAA championship tournament here.

A party that promised to last well into the morning kicked off with four seconds left in the game and KU up by eight points. A titanic cheer went up at that point, as KU coach Roy Williams sent in substitutes for all five players and congratulated the Jayhawks coming off the floor.

It became obvious that the Jayhawks had pulled off what most of their fans once thought was impossible.

"Incredible," said Ted McDonald, a Kansas University senior from Wichita. "Absolutely incredible. The KU section was just going nuts the whole time. Nobody sat down. It was intense."

MCDONALD and two friends, Steve Cooksey of Dallas, and Jason Robinson of Lawrence, said they think KU can pull off one more upset and win the tournament.

"We won it when we were freshmen, and now we're going to win it again as seniors," McDonald said as Cooksey and Robinson let out screams and pumped their fists.

Before the night ended, KU boosters were yelling equally hard for another team Duke. It worked. Duke knocked undefeated and top-ranked UNLV out of the tournament, 79-77. KU and Duke will meet Monday night. The winner will be the champion of college basketball.

Now that UNLV's Runnin' Rebels are gone, fans said, KU has an even better chance to take the title and complete its surprising NCAA march.

Although the Blue Devils are viewed as a less-imposing opponent, Jayhawk fans were ready for either team.

Having seen their Jayhawks knock off the No. 4, 3 and 2 teams in the country, fans were convinced that anything can happen.

"BRING ON UNLV!" shouted Joel Karman, a junior from Chicago. "We want UNLV. I want UNLV."

Steve Franano on Saturday wore the same shirt he wore to every KU game in the 1988 NCAA Tournament. On Monday, Franano and his lucky shirt will return to the Hoosier Dome.

"It's just incredible," said Franano, an Ottawa native. "It's unbelievable. We've beaten everybody. Arkansas. Indiana. We can do it."

For Wint Winter Sr., a KU graduate and former state legislator from Ottawa, the game brought back memories of other Final Four teams.

He said the team's string of upsets makes it similar to the 1988 NCAA championship team led by Danny Manning.

Tonight's game also brought back fond memories of the 1952 team, which won the national championship.

Winter said the common thread between the 1952, 1988 and 1991 teams is a good coach.

"IT'S NICE TO go into any arena and know you're not going to get out-coached," he said.

For a while, it looked as if Saturday was the end of KU's Cinderella story. The Jayhawks trailed early, but held the lead at the half. They never trailed the Tar Heels in the second half, but North Carolina was within striking distance until the closing seconds.

It was an exciting and physically draining game to watch, fans said.

"My entire body has goosebumps all over it," said Janie Kobett, a KU cheerleader.

KU fans eager to talk to their friends about the game lined up to get to a bank of telephones near the KU section.

They flocked to memorabilia stands, all the while hugging and giving each other high fives.

AND THEY made plans to party. The premiere party site will be the team's motel, which was also the scene of a pregame pep rally that drew about 2,000 fans.

While some fans filed out of the arena, others stuck around to scout the UNLV-Duke game.

"I'm staying to watch the game so I don't have to worry tomorrow," said Joe Zielinski III. "Then when it's over we're going to go have some beers at the Union Station (a train station near the Hoosier Dome that that has been converted to a mall) and celebrate."

Zielinski's voice was raspy after the game, battered by two hours of yelling.

But Zielinski will return Monday, wearing the "Captain Jayhawk" outfit he's donned throughout the season. The outfit consists of a cape and a basketball that has been fashioned into a helmet.

"I knew back in February that we could make it this far," he said. "Now, we're going to go all the way."

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