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Champion Huskies set for victory celebration

By Pat Eaton-Robb
Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:07 a.m. HST, Apr 05, 2011


STORRS, Conn. » Star guard Kemba Walker, coach Jim Calhoun and the national champion Connecticut Huskies will be welcomed home with a victory rally at Gampel Pavilion.

The Huskies, 53-41 winners over Butler on Monday night in Houston, are scheduled to arrive at Bradley International Airport at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Calhoun will speak to fans at the airport before the team heads to the campus for the victory celebration at Gampel Pavilion.

On Monday night, thousands of students stormed the court at Gampel Pavilion after the Huskies finished off their third national championship. More than 8,000 fans, mostly students, nearly filled UConn's home arena to watch the game on the scoreboards and three large screens set up on the floor.

They erupted every time the Huskies scored. The sound became deafening when Jeremy Lamb made a 3-pointer to put UConn ahead in the second half. And with about 30 seconds left and the game no longer in doubt, they began pouring onto the arena floor to celebrate UConn's third national championship, and first since 2004.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" screamed UConn women's basketball star Maya Moore, as she put her hands on her head while watching her fellow students bounce up and down at midcourt.

The students then streamed out of the arena onto Stadium and Hillside Roads for a street party that lasted into the early morning.

"We became Huskies for this reason," said Kaitlyn Herman, a sophomore from Boston. "To just feel this school spirit, to all be here together, just cheering on this one team and just to celebrate together. It's what we stand for."

The students began filling Gampel two hours before game time, chanting "Kemba Walker!" and "U!-C!-O!-N!-N! UConn! UConn! UConn!"

Sophomore Ryan King, 19, of Berwyn, Pa., came with his body painted blue and a big white "M'' on his chest part of a group spelling out the name "KEMBA."

"It's magical, man," he said. "The student body coming together, not many people get to see a Final Four while they're here."

Some of the fans got a little too raucous.

Police say fans caused minor property damage on campus and in Storrs, and several have been arrested.

Campus police say 12 people were arrested, five of them students. UConn police Maj. Ronald Blicher said early Tuesday that most of the charges involve vandalism and criminal mischief.

He says one car was flipped over and a couple of fires were started in Dumpsters.

A couch was set on fire and a car was overturned at an off-campus apartment complex. State police say a crowd of 200 or so had gathered, and some were throwing bottles at troopers. They were using dogs to disperse the crowd.

In 2004, the last time the UConn men won a championship, 35 people were arrested after rowdy fans started fires and overturned some cars on and off campus.

University president Philip Austin and Police Chief Robert Hudd sent an email to students Monday asking them to behave after the national title game.

"Nothing can be gained from harmful, destructive, or criminal actions," they wrote. "However, anyone who engages in this sort of behavior does have a great deal to lose, including risking arrest and possible expulsion from the university."

Associated Press videojournalist Ted Shaffrey contributed to this report.






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