MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Thousands of Wisconsin fans packed downtown Madison on Monday night, dancing and jumping around, despite a loss to Duke University in the NCAA championship.
Fans poured out of bars along State Street, the downtown’s main thoroughfare, after the Badgers fell 68-63 to the Blue Devils in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin fans had been hoping to celebrate the team’s first national title in 74 years, but still, the upbeat group chanted, “Let’s go Wisco,” as fireworks burst overhead and music blasted from speakers along the streets. Police officers kept pedestrian traffic flowing smoothly.
Tyler Brown, a first-year student, walked along the street in tears Monday night.
“I just wish they could have pulled it off,” he said, wiping his face. “They played so great, but they couldn’t do it.”
University police said they were pleased with crowd behavior during the Final Four matchup with Kentucky over the weekend and had encouraged safety no matter the outcome in the title game. They reported Monday night that they put out a small fire but had no other incidents.
Griffin Stangel, 25, said his dreams of Badger basketball victory were crushed again Monday night. Stangel who now lives in California, said he grew up in Madison and had memories of the team’s 2000 trip to the Final Four.
“I just remember 10-year-old me at the fan celebration,” Stangel said. “It was incredible.”
But so far, the basketball seasons have not turned out the way he’d like, Stangel said. Stangel said he attended the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Los Angeles this season and hoped the Badgers would clinch the win. He sat watching recaps of the game Monday night, sighing in disappointment.
“I’m just thinking about all ... these seasons that ended too soon,” Stangel said. “I wish they could have done it this time.”
Earlier in the day, throngs of students and other Badgers fans clad in bright red jerseys and the school’s signature striped bib overalls milled around campus. Hundreds packed the university’s student union to watch the game.
UW students Katie Zimny, 24, and Laura Zimny, 20, sat in the Memorial Union building while Laura tried to study the vascular system.
Katie Zimny said the two scouted out their spot in the union eight hours ahead of the 8:18 CDT tipoff. She said they loved the atmosphere in the lodge-style dining room, as well as being surrounded by so many others in their Badgers apparel.
Bill Bogan was in the union building with his twin 11-year-olds, Bryce and Zoe, cheering on the team Monday night. Bogan said he was an alumnus of the university and traveled from Lafayette, Indiana, to watch the game.
“We couldn’t afford a trip to the championship this year, so I wanted to give them a chance to get in on the excitement on campus,” Bogan said. “If they win, it will be the biggest party I’ve ever seen here tonight.”
On State Street during the game, fans lined up outside bars waiting to enter and watched the matchup through windows as it rained.