KU fans hoping for a victory party on Massachusetts Street went home disappointed Saturday night.
What started out as a promising evening on the main downtown spot in Lawrence turned somber quickly as KU fans watched the Jayhawks once again fail to make it to the Final Four, losing 74-60 to Oregon at the Sprint Center.
For the second straight year, students, alumni and KU diehards had to take solace in the fact that the men’s basketball team had at least made it to this stage of the season, the Elite Eight.
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But for many of the fans who came to downtown Lawrence hoping to celebrate, making it this far offered little consolation.
“It hurts, like always,” Nick Martin, a 25-year-old KU alum, said after the loss.
Bars in downtown Lawrence were filled with fans long before tipoff Saturday, many of them on edge knowing that the only thing standing between the Jayhawks men’s basketball team winning a return trip to the Final Four was a determined Oregon Ducks squad.
But after KU fell behind early, and a late comeback was squandered, fans said the feeling of a tournament collapse felt all too familiar.
“We always use that excuse, we don’t play well in the tournament,” said Madi McNinch, a 22-year-old from Lawrence.
Meanwhile, across the street from the Sprint Center, more KU fans had to face the upset loss.
Curse words, grunts and groans were how Ethan Wilcox of Kansas City said he reacted to the loss.
Long after a watch party ended in the Power & Light District’s Kansas City Live courtyard, Wilcox and other KU faithful were still in shock.
“We played like crap,” Wilcox said.
He said the game was the third he had attended this season, all of them KU losses.
“I would have put money on the Ducks, but I don’t bet,” Wilcox said.
Kansas had shown resiliency all season. The team averaged 50 points in the second half of each game of the NCAA Tournament prior to the matchup with Oregon.
The Jayhawks cut a 16-point second-half deficit to six during the last eight minutes.
Why would Saturday be different? Colton York of Dighton, Kan. thought.
“When we got it to within six, I thought we had ’em,” York said. “Nope.”
York said he was disappointed with the outcome but was proud of the Jayhawks’ near run to the Final Four.
“Oregon was pretty tough, though,” York said.
Near the KU campus, police were primed for a rowdy night in Lawrence and on Massachusetts Street, the main downtown hub.
But there seemed to be little chaos late Saturday, as KU fans walked the streets, some shouting expletives, others saying they planned to party even if they didn’t have a KU win to celebrate.
For some of the fans who filled the downtown bars, watching the game in town was a matter of tradition.
“It’s like the closest thing to being in Allen Fieldhouse that you can get to,” said Michelle Morris, 35, of Lenexa. “The vibe of so many people cheering for the same team. It’s unbeatable.”
Others said it just made sense to watch alongside fans who understood the ups and downs of a KU basketball season.
“There’s few places on Earth I’d rather be than watching a tournament game on Mass Street,” said Adam Dubinsky, a 38-year-old KU alumnus.
Even after a loss like Saturday’s, they expected KU to put them through similar emotions next March.
“You know, the great thing about Kansas is that we’re going to back here, right here, next year,” Willie Johnson, a 22-year-old graduate student said.