UConn win resonates with fans back home
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut fans say this one may have tasted just a little sweeter.
UConn students stormed the court at Gampel Pavilion, the school's basketball arena, on Tuesday night after their women's team won its eighth national title on another court more than 1,400 miles away in New Orleans.
"I'm just so happy that the one year the men couldn't go to the tournament is when the women brought home the national championship for our school,'' said Natalie Krzemienski, 19, a sophomore from New York. "It means so much.''
Hundreds of fans, including members of the UConn men's team, gathered to watch the 93-60 win over Louisville, which was projected onto three large screens set up in the middle of the Gampel Pavilion court. They were joined by one of the school's three pep bands and a cheerleading squad.
The crowd sang along with the national anthem; screamed when the UConn players were introduced and booed the Cardinals.
Most even followed the UConn tradition of standing until the team scored its first bucket, and they chanted "Let's go Huskies,'' when Louisville took the early lead.
When Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit a basket to put the Huskies in front, the stands shook. When the final buzzer sounded, they rushed onto the court as if the game had been played at home.
"This just shows how much love we have for our basketball,'' UConn men's guard Shabazz Napier said. "It's so gratifying to see this. It's something we all cherish.''
At halftime, with a 19-point lead, some began heading to the exits. But others began pouring in as the game would down, anticipating the party to follow.
The crowd spilled out onto the street after the game, which was turned into a giant dance floor, complete with a disc jockey.
They partied late into the night, as the projected image of the school's interlocking UC logo with a basketball behind it spun to the beat of the music on the outside wall of the student union.
"It's huge to experience my first championship on campus,'' said Sarah Yenkelun, a 19-year-old sophomore from Thomaston. "The energy is incredible. It's just a great night to be a Husky.''
There was no immediate report of any rioting, a contrast to 2011, when 27 people were arrested on and off campus during the celebration of the men's third title.
Between the men's and women's programs, UConn has won 11 national titles since 1995 and is 11-0 in championship games. The UConn women are 8-0, including a 22-point win over Louisville in 2009.
"It never gets old,'' said Evan Shuris, 18, a freshman from Kennebunk, Maine. "There is nothing like winning it all.''
Huskies fans also were thrilled that UConn was able to stop Louisville from joining Connecticut as the only school to win men's and women's titles in the same year. Connecticut accomplished that feat in 2004.
It's been a tough year for UConn basketball, with conference realignment and the men's program barred from the NCAA tournament because of academics.
But senior Sam Darby, 21, said this was a chance to again celebrate the school as the center of the college basketball world.
"We're UConn; we're a little school out in the middle of nowhere,'' said Darby, who joined some friends in painting the letters U-C-O-N-N on their chests. "This is who we are, this is what we do.''