At precisely 10:40 p.m., moments after Kansas’ national championship loss to Kentucky was finished, the mobs emerged in time from the bars and poured on to Massachusetts Street downtown.
“Let the riots begin,” someone shouted.
Except, they didn’t, at least not immediately afterward and not along the main artery through downtown Lawrence. Despite the presence of what had to be thousands of Kansas students and other fans, the situation was orderly after Kentucky beat the Jayhawks 67-59 for the national title.
Things were no doubt helped by the heavy presence of police lining Mass Street and helicopters circling above. But, even in defeat, the festivities were hardly diminished.
By 6 p.m., and probably much earlier, Mass Street was mobbed. Lines formed outside popular sports bars downtown at least 21/2 hours before tipoff. If you didn’t have your place in front of a television staked out by then, you needed some good fortune in finding one. Many bars were packed to overflow.
Bars made plans for the night contingent on the results of the game. If Kansas had won, they planned to stay open until 2 a.m. If the Jayhawks lost, they would close as early as possible.
At tipoff, a surprisingly large group of fans was still outside, some perhaps still searching for a place that would have them. But there were also outdoor options on a warm, humid night to watch the game. The CBS telecast was projected from a parking lot on to the side of an abandoned building.
Fans were lined up four or five deep along the sidewalk outside of Buffalo Wild Wings, watching the game on televisions placed inside the large picture windows. Somebody had parked a pickup truck along Mass Street and placed a TV set, rabbit ears and all, atop the cab. A large group of fans gathered around to watch.
Inside at Louise’s, a downtown bar, students sang the national anthem along with The Fray, ending the song with, of course, “Home of the Chiefs.”
The downtown crowd largely consisted of students. But a pair of Kansas graduates, Ron and Elayne Dock of Charlotte, N.C., ventured to Louise’s. They had planned the trip to Kansas a while back, but with the Jayhawks in the title game, decided they had to be in Lawrence to watch.
Predictably, the mood of the fans ebbed and flowed with the game. With about 14 minutes left in the first half and Kansas trailing 14-9, alarm began to set in. It only strengthened as Kentucky stretched its lead to 18 points later in the half and led 41-27 at halftime.
Kansas rallied early in the second half, but Louise’s went as quiet as it would be all night midway through the second half when Kentucky made back-to-back three-point baskets, moving its lead back to 16 points.
But resignation set in only in the final moments of the game, when it became evident a late Jayhawks rally was too little, too late, and that Kentucky and not Kansas would win the national championship.