NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Thousands of Connecticut students stormed the court at Gampel Pavilion on Monday night as if the Huskies had just won the national championship at home.
More than 8,000 fans, mostly students, nearly filled UConn’s home arena to watch the game on the scoreboards and three large screens set up on the floor.
They erupted every time the Huskies scored. The sound became deafening when Jeremy Lamb made a 3-pointer to put UConn ahead in the second half. And with about 30 seconds left and the game no longer in doubt, they began pouring onto the arena floor to celebrate UConn’s third national championship, and first since 2004.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!” screamed UConn women’s basketball star Maya Moore, as she put her hands on her head while watching her fellow students bounce up and down at midcourt.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Paul Murnane with SCREAMING fans in Storrs!
The students then streamed out of the arena onto Stadium and Hillside Roads for a street party that lasted into the early morning.
“We became Huskies for this reason,” said Kaitlyn Herman, a sophomore from Boston. “To just feel this school spirit, to all be here together, just cheering on this one team and just to celebrate together. It’s what we stand for.”
The students began filling Gampel Pavilion two hours before game time, chanting “Kemba Walker!” and “U!-C!-O!-N!-N! UConn! UConn! UConn!”
Sophomore Ryan King, 19, of Berwyn, Pa., came with his body painted blue and a big white “M” on his chest – part of a group spelling out the name “KEMBA.”
“It’s magical, man,” he said. “The student body coming together, not many people get to see a Final Four while they’re here.”
The celebrations led to some minor property damage in Storrs: A couch was set on fire and a car was overturned at an apartment complex off campus. A crowd of several dozen had gathered, and some threw bottles at police officers, who used dogs to disband the crowd.
On campus, one car was flipped over and a couple of fires were started in trash bins. 23 people were arrested, 10 of them students.
The arrests between 8 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday were mostly for vandalism, but others were accused of breach of peace, inciting a riot, criminal trespassing and interfering with a police officer. No one was held and all will be called to court this month.
“There have been sporadic fires, either dumpster or couch” Blicher said. “Not an awful lot though. For the most part the celebrations have been in good nature.”
In 2004, the last time the UConn men won a championship, 35 people were arrested after rowdy fans started fires and overturned some cars on and off campus.
University president Philip Austin and Police Chief Robert Hudd sent an email to students Monday asking them to behave after the national title game.
“Nothing can be gained from harmful, destructive, or criminal actions,” they wrote. “However, anyone who engages in this sort of behavior does have a great deal to lose, including risking arrest and possible expulsion from the university.”
Dana Cutler 19, a sophomore from Guilford, was getting her picture taken with friends on top of the Husky Dog statue in front of the arena.
“It’s going to be crazy all night, maybe even tomorrow and tomorrow night,” she said. “We were just talking about it and we think they should cancel class tomorrow – parade all day.”
The women’s basketball team flew home from Indianapolis on Monday after being upset by Notre Dame 72-63 on Sunday night in the national semifinals.
Most of them came out into the arena to watch at the least the end of the men’s game, hugging, cheering and crying as the seconds ticked off the clock.
“To be here and to celebrate their accomplishments it definitely lifts our spirits a little bit,” said freshman center Stefanie Dolson. “Although our season didn’t work out, it’s just good to know that our guys’ did.”
Star guard Kemba Walker, coach Jim Calhoun and the rest of the team will be welcomed at a victory rally on Tuesday at Gampel Pavilion.
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