Jayhawk Nation Still Smiling

Two days after earning a Sweet 16 berth in Chicago, KU fans were still beaming with pride. And those Phog Phanatics who made it up to Chi-Town for the first two rounds, well, they were happy, too, knowing they played a vital part in KU's success.

The Jayhawk Nation was well-represented in Chicago, and they sure had lots to celebrate. Two big wins over Niagara and tradition-rich Kentucky. And all the excitement and festivities of March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day. From seeing all the crimson and blue as I walked down famed Michigan Avenue to all the KU blue at the Hyatt Regency media hotel and the team hotel at the Westin, I saw the Jayhawk faithful out in full force.

And yes, KU blue was alive and well at the United Center when it counted most.

With a timeout at 7:39 remaining in the game and Kansas holding a 12-point lead, I looked behind me and saw two Jayhawk fans sitting in the second row decked in crimson and blue. I went up to the fans and asked them how they managed to get such prime-time seats and their motivation in coming to Chicago.

“We bought our tickets off e-bay and drove up Thursday night,” said KU sophomore Jenna Lichtenauer. “Our friends live out here, so we stayed with them. We got tickets for all three sessions for four hundred and ten dollars.

Fellow KU sophomore Dana Moore added:

“We didn’t want to spend that much, but our parents ended up putting money towards it. We just love KU. We’ve been to every home game. We always sit at the fourth or fifth row. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to come to an NCAA game, so you might as well.”

So what were their thoughts on the last seven minutes?

“I don’t think they can come back,” Lichtenauer said. “We’re usually a second-half team, so I don’t think anyone can stop us now.”

Then, with 1:28 remaining in the game and KU up 83-66, this game was pretty much locked up with KU headed to the Sweet 16. A little girl close to mid-court stood up sporting a blue KU shirt with No. 25 (Brandon Rush’s number) on the front. She proudly looked at her KU basketball heroes huddled around Jayhawk coach Bill Self in the timeout huddle, kept tugging on her shirt collar, and smiled in celebration.

For Moore and Lichtenauer in the next section, they were bleeding crimson and blue, too, and ready to party.

“On to California,” Lichtenauer yelled. “Yeah,” Moore added. “On to California,” Lichtenauer exclaimed again. “I think we’re going to win the tournament now. I think we have a good chance.”

The two friends said they were going to drive eight hours back to Lawrence after the game. And then, are these diehard KU fans headed to San Jose to cheer on their beloved Jayhawks in the Sweet 16?

“We spent all our money coming here,” Moore laughed. “Probably not unless we get some loans.”

Maybe they’ll get some loans in time for a sweet trip to Atlanta for the Final Four.

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