Originally published April 7, 2008 at 08:02p.m., updated April 7, 2008 at 11:50p.m.
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We're out and about again in Lawrence tonight, as part of our coverage of Kansas University's National Championship game against the University of Memphis. Mark Fagan and Jonathan Kealing are where the fans are. Here's their report, which will be updated throughout the evening.
-- 7:47 p.m.: The line in to Allen Fieldhouse was hundreds deep about 7 p.m. I talked to a group of girls who've been here since 4:45 this morning. You can hear their story as part of the audio slideshow that's available with this story. The place is probably 50 to 55 percent full - though I won't provide crowd estimates until I can find a facilities employee to help me get a reliable estimate. The band has started playing and the crowd is watching pregame coverage on ESPN. A loud cheer goes up every time a KU highlight is played. In other news, KU has obliged fans who may have had too much to drink tonight by placing port-a-potties outside of Wescoe Hall and the Kansas Union. I think they'd like people to refrain from using Strong Hall as a giant urinal. Just a hunch. When the ESPN "experts announced their predictions - and everyone but Jay Bilas picked Memphis - a chorus of boos rose from the stands. Will be interesting to see how the GameDay crew is received on their next Lawrence trip. I'll be providing live updates from Allen Fieldhouse and I'm going to try and put together another audio slideshow of first half action. If you have any questions or requests, please send them to email@example.com. - Jonathan Kealing
-- 7:50 p.m.: So, you think Darnell Jackson, Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson can't wait for the game the start? That's nothing compared to the guy behind the counter at a liquor store in northwest Lawrence. For him, 8:21 can't come soon enough. "Once the game starts, we're doin' nothin' but sittin' down," he said. "It'll be dead." And. yes, you're reading that right: This guyindeed appeared too tired to even complete his words. Better to save his breath, given all the trips he was making back to the cooler. "I'm the guy that has to restock everything," he said. So, it's soon to be game on. I'll be back in a few with a look at the sights and sounds in downtown Lawrence -- where, as fellow observer Chad Lawhorn so deftly noted earlier today -- distributors were busy stocking up bars with plenty of libations. I may have to see about that place that ended up with six kegs of Pabst. Yikes. It should be some night... - Mark Fagan
-- 7:52 p.m.: Just heard Ed Hightower is refereeing the game. That's the same as in 1988, at Kemper. I seem to remember KU winning that title game -- and that Danny Manning didn't come close to fouling out, like he had in 1986 in Dallas. Ugh. That '86 game still makes me sick. I'll be looking for KU fans wearing red tonight. They should immediately sent home to change. - Mark Fagan
-- 8:15 p.m.: Pity the The Envy Corps. The indie rock band guys from Ames, Iowa, had booked their gig at Liberty Hall weeks ago, back when April 7 was just another Monday night. Then a little thing called the Final Four and -- tonight -- a national championship game happened. An expected crowd of 500 to see them and the headliner -- Eisley, known for its fairy dream pop akin to the Cranberries -- play their own songs. About 100 showed up, fewer than the folks who earlier had been out milling around listening to the saxophone guy at Seventh and Massachusetts streets. "We had no idea this game would be going on," said Luke Pettipoole, guitarist and vocalist. "There's a lot smaller crowd tonight than we're used to." Don't expect The Envy Corps to stick around. They're got another gig in St. Louis tomorrow night. "We're just hoping nobody breaks into our van or sets it on fire," Pettipoole said. "We're ready to get out of here." But they're picking KU to win, for what it's worth. "We're Big 12," he said, of being from the home to Iowa State. "And we suck at everything." Now that's playing our tune. - Mark Fagan
-- 8:36 p.m.: I don't know if you can call it superstition or just excitement, but the fans in Allen Fieldhouse have done a pretty good job of re-creating the game atmosphere, all the way down to bringing sheets of newspaper to tear up when the team was introduced and as they score. Chris Hinton, a sophomore from Overland Park, and his friends have thrown quite a bit of newspaper in the air. "It's tradition. You gotta keep going even if the team is gone," Hinton said. "We want to re-create the game experience. We've been pretty good so far." Also, I forgot to mention this in my first update: People tailgating outside of Allen Fieldhouse before the game. They had coolers, snacks and red cups filled with some sort of refreshing liquid. - Jonathan Kealing
-- 8:44 p.m.; Some fieldhouse notes.
- Big Jay and Baby Jay are both here and they're throwing T-shirts into the crowd.
- The Big 12 Conference champions banner has been updated to include this year's crown.
- There is not as of yet a 2008 Final Four banner hanging in the rafters, though one is undoubtedly on order.
- The crowd has filled more and more. I haven't found anyone to estimate the crowd for me yet, but I'm going to say it's more than Saturday, based on the estimate of 7,000 people.
- Jonathan Kealing
-- 8:48 p.m.: Matt Benton's getting a workout, just like the hundreds of others packed into bars along Massachusetts Street. It's just that Benton -- a personal trainer from Emporia -- just might hear a bit about this come Tuesday morning back at work. "I'm a personal trainer," he said, between slurps from his personal pitcher of Boulevard Wheat, complete with three lemons. "On national championship weekend, this is part of my regimen." And, like it is for his hundreds of crimson-and-blue compatriots, Burton's workout is far from over. - Mark Fagan
-- 9 p.m.: Allen Fieldhouse has really come alive as KU tied the game and then took a lead. High-fives and hugs were shared by all when KU took its first lead with about 11 minutes to go in the first half. The stands started rocking a minute later when Mario Chalmers hit a trey to put KU up by 5. Nate Saving came to Allen Fieldhouse all the way from Peoria, Ill., to watch the game. OK, he actually came for the Royals home opener (no lie!), but he's here in Lawrence because he went to KU for a year and his parents are both graduates. "There's no place I'd rather be," he said. "It's pretty sweet. The atmosphere is a lot better than I thought it would be."
-- 9:15 p.m.: It's like intermission at a Broadway show -- everybody's heading for the doors, out into the lobby. Only the lobby is Massachusetts Street -- the sidewalks along Massachusetts. How's this for a matinee special: four buffalo wings and a large beer for $2.75. "Where else can you find a deal like that?" the proud purchaser told me, as she strolled down the sidewalk outside Pro-Print on the way back to her place. Sure beats popcorn. - Mark Fagan
-- 9:20p.m.: In case anybody missed it, CBS showed Roy Williams at the Alamodome, wearing a KU sticker on his black shirt. Bad news, Roy: The well-lubed crowd at Jefferson's didn't appreciate it all that much. Boos, waving of arms. But one voice in the corner -- literally, the corner -- of the place called out for some perspective: "YOU'RE ALL (JERKS)!" she screamed, but she didn't say jerks. "HE'S PULLING FOR THE JAYHAWKS!!!!" Then KU scored, and the "real" KU fans were back in action...
Then I walked outside, past the Joe-College store. Saw a T-shirt with a number of phrases pertaining to Roy's team, UNC, and only some of which can be written here:
get it? UNC?
I wonder if this place will ever let go...
- 9:35 p.m.: One more thing -- or, perhaps more accurately, TWO more things -- about Roy.Talked to Rachel Amyx, who cuts hair at Downtown Barber Shop. You know, the place with a bathroom dubbed "Roy's Room." "Yeah, we've had people coming by all the time," she said, gathered with about 20 friends watching the game. "Everyone's dropping a deuce in Dean's Dome." Yikes. - Mark Fagan
-- 9:36 p.m.: At halftime of the game, Jayhawk fans seemed to be cautiously optimistic. While the game was close, Jayhawk fans were pretty sure that wasn't all bad. Isaac Mitchell, KU junior, said the game was "good close" and not bad close. "It keeps the intensity up and keeps the players on their toes," said Mitchell, who with his friend Steven Johnson, KU freshmen, wore red and blue hockey masks to the game. They said the masks were designed to remind everyone in the fieldhouse how intense the game is. It was so intense, in fact, that most of the ushers had quit staring into the crowd in favor of seats where they could peer up at the game.
10:33 -- "De-fense! De-fense! De-fense!"
That's the word here in Jo Shmoes. They could not be more excited for overtime. We'll have more reactions as the game moves to its completion. -- Jonathan Kealing
10:38 -- With KU up six, fans are starting to have a little bit of confidence. One fan who was on the front page of Sunday's Journal-World just promised me that he was going to top the celebration that landed him on the cover Sunday. I don't know if everyone else will do the same, with the rain and all, but if so the police could be in for a long night. -- Jonathan Kealing
11:45 p.m. - When all their nails had been torn off, Jayhawk fans in Lawrence let out one massive yell and poured onto Massachusetts Street.
The Jayhawks did it. Twenty years after winning their second NCAA tournament title they picked up a third, by beating the University of Memphis 75-68.
"It's story book! It's story book," yelled KU graduate student Curt Freyhofer moments before the Jayhawks clinched their victory. "This team is a team of destiny."
As fans poured onto the street, they were greeted by Lawrence resident Sue Shillington, who strategically parked her minivan in the middle of Massachusetts Street.
"It's awesome. It's great," Shillington said. "I don't think we'll ever get out of here."
As she honked her horn, parked right outside Jo Schmoes, she clapped hands through her window with ecstatic fans walking by.
One student who walked by, Sam Newby, a KU alumnus from Kansas City, Kan., was holding up a copy of the Journal-World's commemorative front page. Several fans approached anyone who had one trying to find a copy of their own.
Police were overseeing the celebration and encouraging everyone to respect property and celebrate safely.
One highway patrolmen turned away a couple who was trying to carry in a case of Bud Light but told them if they came back with cups - and no clearly open containers - they would be allowed onto Massachusetts Street. - Jonathan Kealing