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Campus Erupts After 'Nova Win

Thousands of students exploded into a single scream at Gampel Pavilion as the final buzzer sounded in St. Petersburg Monday night on the Huskies' 77-74 victory over favored Duke.

The students stood screaming for five minutes as loud speakers blared, "We are the Champions."

Ellen Truax of Sharon, a recent Connecticut graduate, was jumping up and down with joy.

"My dream has finally come true. This makes up for all the heartache Duke has caused us so many times," she said.

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Students streamed from the Huskies' home court and dorm rooms all over campus toward a giant university-sponsored bonfire, many holding their index fingers in the air and screaming, "We're number one."

The crowd circled the fire, dancing and jumping up and down. Some set off fireworks, as a caravan of honking cars snaked through the campus.

Sgt. Frank Colonese of the UConn Police said there were no arrests before midnight, and only one twisted ankle.

"Everything looks fine so far," he said.

Extra officers were brought in Monday to work with state police. The lessons of last year's off-campus spring weekend, which erupted into violence and vandalism, were still fresh in officers' minds, Campu Police Chief Robert Hudd said.

Along Interstate 95, Department of Transportation traffic signs flashed "UConn mens basketball, 1999 NCAA Champions,"

At Jim Calhoun's "Coach's" sports bar in downtown Hartford, strangers hugged and high-fived.

"I'm proud of them, and I'm proud to be from Connecticut," said Aurea Mendez of Hartford, echoing the sentiments of many across the state.

Downtown Hartford, which had been deserted during the game, filled with people honking horns and shouting. Over 100 police officers were standing by in case the celebration got out of hand.

Long before the final score was posted, championship day was playing out on campus as a numbers game.

There were more police, more pizza makers, more beer and thanks to the experience of the 1995 women's team championship more people making more plans for celebrating.

Chuck Morrell, an administrator in the student union, was busy Monday with pre- and post-game logistics. Three 225-square-foot, big-screen televisions were being set up across the road in Gampel Pavilion. The adjacent parking lot had been cleared to serve as the site for the bonfire and open air party.

The men's program has already made school history by reaching the Final Four for the first time in 21 tries. Jim Calhoun and crew also become the first men's team in New England to play for a national title since Holy Cross won in 1947.

The party atmosphere will continue on Tuesday when Husky fans get a chance to say thanks to their team in person. Morrell said a pep rally is planned for Tuesday afternoon at Gampel when the team returns, win or lose.

"If you get that far, I don't think it mattrs," said Morrell. "That's why they call it the Final Four. It's not the Final One."

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