There were so many Kansas University basketball fans in Temple’s Liacouras Center on Saturday night that the spectators became a significant part of the Philadelphia Story.
“Included in the sellout crowd of 10,206,” Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Kevin Tatum wrote in his account of the Owls’ humbling 84-52 defeat, “was a surprisingly large contingent of Kansas fans. They made their presence known throughout the game.”
So much so, that Jim O’Connell of the Associated Press wrote that the sellout crowd “was at least even, if not in favor of the Jayhawks.”
And, obviously impressed with KU’s fans, the Inquirer’s Mike Jensen led his Sunday column with this nugget: “A freight train came through town last night, right up North Broad Street, accompanied by maybe the loudest rendition of Rock Chalk Jayhawk ever heard in Philly.”
Yes, the KU fans, visible in all sections of the arena save for the Owls’ student section in the south end zone, broke into the Rock Chalk chant for the final 21⁄2 minutes.
“Our fans were great,” KU coach Bill Self said, estimating the throng at 2,000.
He has seen similar support before, most notably at Colorado’s 11,064-seat Coors Events Center, where the Jayhawks, since the Roy Williams era, have been occupying up to half of the arena on a given game day.
Yes, it’s impressive that the Jayhawk fans flock to Boulder, but KU’s large fan base in western Kansas and Denver explains that one-day-of-the-year frenzy.
The fact 2,000 or so KU fans invaded No. 18-ranked Temple’s gym on a day the Owls were playing a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in the history of the 13-year old arena could be classified as mind-boggling. It came just a few weeks after about 1,500 KU fans migrated to Los Angeles to support the Jayhawks in a 73-61 victory over tradition-rich UCLA.
The fans were heard loud and clear in that game, as well.
“Our fans always find a way,” KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said. “We heard this was the toughest ticket in the history of the building. Obviously, our fans thought ahead and got tickets way before the Villanova game (Temple’s 75-65 victory over No. 3-ranked Nova on Dec. 13).”
Four hours before the contest, more than 100 individuals decked in KU jackets or caps stood in line in zero-degree wind chill outside Pat’s and Geno’s steak shops in south Philly.
About 500 KU fans stood in line in a cold lobby outside Liacouras Center 21⁄2 hours before tipoff, despite the fact doors didn’t swing open until an hour before tip.
Inside the arena, there were so many fans situated behind the north goal that ESPN2’s cameras took notice and spent a lot of time in that vicinity, especially when the game got out of hand.
These fans held banners and waved their arms during Owls’ free throws, making it seem like Allen Fieldhouse East.
Row after row behind the KU bench was chock-full of KU fans, many of those relatives of the Morris twins, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, who hail from Philly, Hoboken, N.J., and Washington, D.C., respectively.
Brooklyn, N.Y., native Marc Scrivo and a buddy held a home-made sign that read “Beware of the Phog” much of the second half. Scrivo and a friend — as well as 50 other KU fans — stood near court level 50 minutes before the game snapping photos of the Jayhawks during warmups.
The KU fans certainly were rewarded for their loyalty.
The 32-point margin of victory was largest in a true road game in the Self era. Overall, it was believed to be KU’s biggest road victory since a 97-58 rout of SMU on Jan. 7, 1995, in Dallas. It was Temple’s worst loss since a 106-69 defeat by Wake Forest on Feb. 7, 1993.
Many of the Jayhawks who didn’t have relatives in the stands signed autographs for those who stuck around in the southwest tunnel.
Xavier Henry was happy to oblige — on one condition.
“Coach,” Henry said, flagging down a KU assistant for permission, “I want to sign autographs, but will somebody tell me if the bus is leaving? I don’t want to keep anybody waiting and get left here.”
No problem, Xavier, the coach said with a smile, putting the rookie’s fears to rest.
Traffic woes: The Jayhawks experienced no travel problems returning to Lawrence from Philly late Saturday, once they crept past traffic near the arena.
“There was an accident on Broad Street. It was a parking lot,” Marchiony said of the oft-congested Philly streets. “We sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 20 minutes.”
The charter flight had no delays. KU’s travel party made it back before midnight.
KU will meet Cornell at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse.
Selby to visit: Josh Selby, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard from Lake Clifton High in Baltimore, will visit KU for the Feb. 13 game against Iowa State, Selby’s mom tells Rivals.com. The country’s No. 4-ranked player is also considering Kentucky, Arizona, Indiana and Syracuse.