It wasn't the party everyone had hoped for a week earlier, but members of the Kansas University's men's basketball team still received a hero's welcome Saturday night when they returned to Allen Fieldhouse from San Antonio.
"It was pretty tough yesterday," said Ron Kuebelbuck, 45, Shawnee, referring to KU's defeat Friday night at the hands of Illinois, a loss that eliminated the Jayhawks from the NCAA Tournament.
"We just wanted to show the players how much we support them," Kuebelbuck said, as he sat in the fieldhouse stands with his wife, Georgia.
"We just like basketball and we like the 'Hawks," Georgia Kuebelbuck said.
The Jayhawks arrived at the fieldhouse shortly after 10 p.m. to a standing ovation from a crowd of about a 1,000 slightly smaller than last week's welcoming committee estimated at 1,500.
Several teen-aged girls lined the side of the court, holding signs saying "Hug us (Jeff) Boschee" and "Thanks for the Memories." Some wore shirts labeled (Kirk) "Hinrich's Honeys" and (Eric) "Chenowith's Chicks."
The fans also paid a fond farewell to KU's two seniors, Eric Chenowith and Kenny Gregory.
Chenowith said he was pleased with his career at KU, and expressed his appreciation to the fans.
"Thank you so much for supporting us you're the best," he said.
Gregory echoed Chenowith's sentiments.
"Even though we came up short, I think we had a lot of success this year," he said.
Coach Roy Williams agreed. The Jayhawks finished the year with a 26-7 record.
"It wasn't what we wanted; at the same time there's only one team that gets what they want at the end of the year," Williams said.
"These young men, they've been fantastic," he continued, nodding toward his players. "This is the greatest place there is to play and to coach."
An hour earlier the Jayhawks landed at Forbes Field, Topeka, where they were greeted by a crowd that was about half the size of last's week's when 500 people gathered in the terminal. Darla Whitehead, 37, Rossville, was unhappy with those that didn't return, referring to them as "fair weather" fans.
"I'm disappointed there weren't more here," she said.
Derrick Brunin, 14, Rossville, was pleased with the Jayhawks' season and blamed the officials for Friday night's loss.
"They played awesome but the referees were bad," he said.
Friday night just wasn't their night, Knute Kresie, Topeka said.
"They were just short on horses last night," said Kresie, 80, a KU alumnus who played on the KU baseball team in the 1940s. "I think they've done a great job."