Jayhawk fans storm downtown to bask in afterglow of Final Four victory

Fans storm Mass. Street on Saturday following KU's 64-62 victory over Ohio State.

We’re going to the ‘ship.

So was the chant as hundreds of Kansas University men’s basketball fans flooded into Massachusetts Street Saturday night after the team beat Ohio State in a nail-biting 64-62 victory in the NCAA Tournament’s national semifinal. Fans hugged, high-fived and jumped for joy, celebrating in style with a mass mobbing of the closed-off street, collective excitement running wild.

Lawrence resident Von Edman watched the Jayhawks beat the Buckeyes in the law offices near Eighth and Massachusetts streets and then joined in the procession of happy Jayhawks.

“It’s tradition here,” he said. “We watch the game, then we watch the mayhem.”

Recent graduate Mariel Baki remembers the last time Kansas fans chanted about the championship in 2008. This flood of people reminded her of that night when Kansas beat John Calipari-led Memphis to win it all.

“This was too close for comfort,” she said of Saturday’s game. “But I’m excited and proud of them. And this is an awesome community to do this.”

Just a few minutes after the win, with thousands of fans high-fiving their way down the street, a second chant broke out, short and sweet: “KU! KU!” The Jayhawk pride was palpable. Kyle Johnson took it all in, proud, too, in what a supposedly not-so-great team had already accomplished.

“If this is a rebuilding year, I want to rebuild every year,” he said.

Theron Howley walked from Louise’s, 1009 Mass., and into the fray with an 8-foot-plus-tall flag pole, Jayhawk colors flying high.

He too was reminded of 2008, when he carried the flag. That flag is lucky, he said, and so he had to carry it again.

“You don’t mess with lucky,” he said.

Lucky flag or not, the “tradition” posed a problem for law enforcement, who were out in force with nearly 200 officers on patrol downtown. Overall, the high-spirited crowd remained genial, with no major crime incidents or bookings as of early this morning. But officers did deal with many calls and worked to keep peace — along with people off light poles and roofs.

And as the basketball players get ready for 8:23 p.m. Monday, when they’ll play No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the “‘ship”, the jubilant fans have one last chant, one that continued to float on and around Mass. Street and beyond:

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, go KU.