Archive for Monday, March 25, 2002

Final Four! In Madison and Lawrence, it’s party time

Kansas punches ticket to Atlanta with win over Oregon; Jayhawks lauded in fieldhouse celebration

March 25, 2002

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Big Jay started the slaughter Sunday in Madison, Wis., by hanging a stuffed toy duck in effigy.

The real big Jayhawks, the sweaty guys in white-and-blue Kansas uniforms, finished by shooting down the Oregon Ducks 104-86 to earn a Final Four berth in Atlanta.

Kansas is celebrating its first Final Four berth since 1993. Coach
Roy Williams, shows his happiness at a net-cutting ceremony after
the Jayhawks' 104-86 win Sunday over Oregon.

Kansas is celebrating its first Final Four berth since 1993. Coach Roy Williams, shows his happiness at a net-cutting ceremony after the Jayhawks' 104-86 win Sunday over Oregon.

As the final buzzer sounded, Lawrence came alive with the din of car horns, screams of joy and fireworks as impromptu celebrations broke out on Mount Oread and downtown.

The party continued in Topeka, where hundreds waited for the team's charter flight to touch down early evening at Forbes Field, and Allen Fieldhouse, where thousands of jubilant fans waited hours to welcome home the conquering heroes.

But it all started back in Madison, where a morning pep rally got the ball rolling.

"You ever know of a situation where a 'Hawk hasn't been able to take a Duck?" KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway screamed.

Following laws of nature, the 33-3 Jayhawks are going to college basketball's championship venue for the first time since 1993.

KU Coach Roy Williams showed his age during the post-game victory celebration. He briefly joined KU's players in a mosh-pit hopping fest, but a gimpy hamstring convinced him to let the youngsters bounce around.

"I'm 51 years old going on 100," Williams mused.

While KU players Jeff Carey first, Jeff Boschee last cut down the first of two nets, Williams waved his daughter, Kim, to his side. Gripping a Midwest Regional champion T-shirt and cap, and with about 8,000 lingering Jayhawk loyalists still roaring approval, Kim handed him a cellular telephone with son Scott on the line.

"It feels pretty good right now, to say the least," Williams told his boy. "I love you, son."



With 3 minutes, 8 seconds left, the game was over. The 16,310 people in Kohl Center knew it. And KU's players knew it. They showed it with high fives and hugs. Their parents shouted it to the heavens, and loud enough for their sons on the bench to turn, smile and point their way.

But it wasn't officially over until the KU Pep Band led an impromptu KU Choir, basically all KU fans at the arena, in a surprisingly good rendition of a blue-collar, working-man's song.

"We're not going to take it," they rumbled. "Oh, no, we're not going to take it. We're not going to take it anymore."

KU medical school student Lisa Beran, who threw discus for the Jayhawks' track team from 1994-1998, watched the Elite Eight showdown at Kohl.

Jayhawks Aaron Miles, left, and Keith Langford, hug each other in
the waning moments of Sunday's Midwest Regional final in Madison,
Wis.

Jayhawks Aaron Miles, left, and Keith Langford, hug each other in the waning moments of Sunday's Midwest Regional final in Madison, Wis.

She said the Jayhawks have the right prescription for success.

"It's been too long since we've been to the Final Four," she said. "Best of all, we have the talent this year to go and win."

Retiree Jack Alexander of Topeka, who graduated in 1949 from Topeka High School with basketball legend Dean Smith, said the team's commitment to winning is like a great wine that everybody can sip and enjoy.

"It's a hoot, I'm telling you," Alexander said.



Downtown Lawrence was a noisy place after the game, with an impromptu parade of cars cruising up and down Massachusetts Street, drivers laying on the horn and passengers screaming themselves hoarse.

Abby Schieber, a KU Law School student, accompanied a coterie of friends as they walked downtown, yelling their heads off.

"We just took a Georgia peach shot at the Sandbar because we're going to Atlanta!" said Schieber, who was wearing a KU basketball jersey signed by former Jayhawk Ryan Robertson.



Profit was already being made Sunday afternoon on the Jayhawks' Final Four appearance.

The KU bench celebrates a second-half play.

The KU bench celebrates a second-half play.

Eastons set up temporary shop in a former art gallery at 914 Mass., selling T-shirts, hats, miniature basketballs and golf balls emblazoned with KU and Final Four logos.

"We've been ready for weeks," said Greg Easter, who was overseeing business. "It only happens once every five or six years. We'll be here all night."

Down the street, The Sports Dome at 942 Mass. was full, with people lined up part way down the block waiting for their turn to buy KU paraphernalia.

"I want to wear my T shirt to work in the morning," said Whitney Coupe, who graduated from KU in December.



Not all the celebrating was safe. At Ninth and Massachusetts streets, two shirtless young men were jumping up and down in the bed of a pickup truck. When the truck moved forward, the two fell out and landed on their backs in the street. But they jumped right up again and got back in the truck one with a readily apparent bruise spreading across his back.



The Jayhawks were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans when their plane touched down Sunday night at Forbes Field in Topeka. Players and coaches worked the receiving line, signing autographs.

"With each step you go farther, there's a few more fans here," said junior forward Nick Collison.

"It's a nice greeting to come home to after a victory," said Boschee, senior guard.



After the game, a stream of cars cruised Jayhawk Boulevard with people hanging out waving KU flags, honking horns and yelling. A crowd of about 200 gathered in front of Strong Hall and cheered back at the cars.

Jean Owens and Emily Frankman, both KU sophomores, joined the crowd after hearing the noise from their rooms at the Delta Delta Delta house, 1630 Oxford Road.

Kansas' Keith Langford (5) lays in two points.

Kansas' Keith Langford (5) lays in two points.

"We're going all the way for sure, there's no doubt in my mind," Frankman said. "And then this campus is going to be crazy."

Mike Browning, Lawrence, last came to campus for a post-basketball party in 1988.

"We're back, and we're going to take it all," he said.

Vicky Mora, a Haskell Indian Nations University sophomore from Winslow, Ariz., braved the cold to cheer on the passing stream of cars.

"We're here to keep the Jayhawk spirit and to stay warm," she said as she jumped up and down.

Tom Boxberger, Lawrence, waved a KU flag and revealed the length of his devotion: He has a Jayhawk crown in the back of his upper mandible.

"I absolutely bleed crimson and blue," he said. "We love KU; we love the 'Hawks."

The crowd dissipated by about 5 p.m., but not before one fan climbed a light pole in front of Strong Hall, carrying a KU flag.

A crowd estimated by KU officials at 10,300 streamed Sunday into Allen Fieldhouse, and some of the first were the Krones sisters from Lawrence. Snagging a front row seat, they held up posters with pictures of Williams, Drew Gooden and Boschee.

Brandi, 15, sported a T-shirt that said "Boschee's Babe," and her sister Kristina, 14, had a "Gooden's Gal" shirt, while Isabelle, 3, had a shirt that said "Boschee's Bud."

"We just wanted to show them how much we like them and support them," Brandi said.



Final Four T-shirts sold like hotcakes at the Fieldhouse.

KU's Wayne Simien (23) and Drew Gooden double-up on Oregon's Chris
Christoffersen.

KU's Wayne Simien (23) and Drew Gooden double-up on Oregon's Chris Christoffersen.

Angie Cretors, assistant manager of kustore.com, said the shirts were printed immediately after the game. She expected to sell about 2,000 Sunday night and said 700 orders had been placed online.

"We haven't made it to the Final Four since '93," she said. "It's something special, and they want something to remember it by."



At 9:19 p.m., the word came over the Fieldhouse loudspeakers that the Jayhawks were at 15th and Iowa streets. A tunnel of media, Crimson Girls, security guards and fans lined the southwest entrance. At 9:24 p.m., a cheerleader with a KU flag burst onto the court, and the crowd erupted in a roar.

"We've got to be one of the luckiest teams in America right now to come home to fans like you," Gooden said.

Kirk Hinrich thanked the crowd for showing up on a Sunday night.

"I can't even explain the feeling right now that we're all going through," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be back here next Tuesday."

After a few players spoke, Williams ended the night just before 9:50 p.m.

"We love you. We appreciate the fact that you're here," he said. "But we're taking these guys straight to the locker room because this will be their first meeting as a Final Four team."




Staff writers Tim Carpenter, Joel Mathis and Matt Merkel-Hess contributed to this article.

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