Students filed out of Cameron Indoor Stadium in stunned silence Monday night after the Connecticut Huskies upset the Blue Devils 77-74 to win their first NCAA championship.
Thousands of students poured into the arena and crowded around a giant television screen to watch the game. Some spread out on blankets on the tarp-covered floor, while others sat in some of the arena's 8,800 seats to get a view.
Spotlights illuminated banners from Duke's NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992 as the scoreboard ticked off the minutes before tipoff.
A Duke victory likely would have triggered a wild celebration, featuring a towering bonfire at the center of campus. At least nine car-sized wooden benches were piled up and set aflame after Duke's 89-77 win over North Carolina on Jan. 27.
Many fans stood throughout the game as a band urged them on.
But as Connecticut built a five-point lead late in the second half, doubt started creeping in.
"We just need to play our game, mentally tough, relaxed," said a grim-faced Matt Weiss, a junior from Miami.
When Trajan Langdon lost the ball in the closing seconds to clinch the Huskies' victory, Duke's notoriously rowdy crowd fell deathly silent.
The fans marched to the center of campus and started a traditional bonfire, but the mood was grim.
"We feel defeated, even though we weren't the ones playing," said freshman Erica Biro, from Boca Raton, Fla. "It's so shocking. That's why the silence."
"This is a fire of defeat," said Kristin Pitman, a freshman from Los Angeles.
Talene Yacoubian, a graduate student in neurobiology from Chattanooga, Tenn., had her second painful experience watching Duke lose a national championship game.
"I was here in '94 in this building when they lost to Arkansas,"she said "I have to stick around in grad school until they finally win."
Yacoubian also said she may have to ditch her lucky shoes. She was wearing a pair of sneakers and said the only time this season she didn't wear them was when Duke lost to Cincinnati in the Great Alaska Shootout.
She was wearing her lucky shoes again Monday night, but they didn't work.
"I guess their charm is gone."
Several female fans wept after the game. Others took the shocking loss in stride.
"I'm not taking it as hard as some folks, maybe it's a freshman thing," said freshman Elizabeth Fulk of Winston-Salem. "I am proud to be at this school."
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