UConn returns home to celebrations, vandalism on campus

UConn returns home to celebrations, vandalism on campus

Associated Press 12:31 GMT4 Minutes Reading

UConn tops SDSU to win 5th NCAA men’s title UConn defeats San Diego State in the NCAA men’s national championship game to seal its fifth title in school history.

STORRS, Conn. — UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley took the moment to cover it Tuesday on the 40-mile drive from Bradley International Airport to campus, watching fans hang signs from freeway overpasses and line the roads leading they took you to the campus.

More than 7,000 people packed inside Gampel Pavilion, Connecticut’s home arena, to greet the team Tuesday afternoon with loud cheers and a standing ovation to celebrate Monday’s 76-59 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs in the national championship game. It was the program’s fifth NCAA title in the last 24 years — the most of any program in college basketball.

“This is a big deal,” Hurley said. “The NCAA Tournament is a big deal. Playing in the Final Four is a big deal. And obviously basketball is a big deal for the people of Connecticut. Men’s and women’s basketball, it’s the state’s pro sports team, and you just look at the incredible pride people have in their Huskies.”

Junior guard Andre Jackson said he got excited just seeing the spot in the rafters where his team’s banner will hang alongside those commemorating the school’s four other championships for men and 11 women’s titles.

“It’s literally a basketball venue,” he said. “There’s not a lot to do here. That’s part of why I came here, was the environment, just being around legacy championship programs and around a lot of greats that have come through this place.”

The Huskies landed at the airport in Connecticut shortly after 3:00 PM ET and were given a police escort for the trip east to campus.

Students began lining up outside Gampel Pavilion at about the same time and waited for about 2 1/2 hours for the team to arrive.

“As a student, it makes you really proud to be from Connecticut and to go to UConn,” said Jacob Levy, a 20-year-old sophomore from Woodbridge. “We’re blue bloods, 100%. I was saying that even before last night. We’re the most successful program of the last 25 years. I don’t think there’s any debate right now.”

But not all celebrations were joyous.

After the game Monday, some UConn fans toppled signs and light poles, broke windows and caused other damage on campus.

Fifteen people were arrested on Tuesday and 16 were taken to hospital during the celebrations. None of the injuries were thought to be serious, UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said.

“The vast majority of those who celebrated the Husky win last night did so safely and responsibly,” she said in a statement. “A small number chose to put themselves and others’ safety at risk by vandalizing or destroying property after the match.”

Most of those arrested were students, she said. Police were investigating the damage and any students found responsible could face expulsion, she said.

Gampel Pavilion was also open Monday night for students to watch the game, which was played in Houston. More than 10,000 people attended the watch party.

Most of the party, which lasted until the early hours of the morning, was peaceful. However, social media and television footage showed students removing signs and light posts, with some using a pole to break the glass of a door in a campus building as a crowd cheered.

Reitz said the damage also included broken windows, a vehicle flipped on its side and fires lit in trash cans and wooden benches.

“We were on the street and people were going crazy,” said Nancy Toskova, a 20-year-old from Montreal, Quebec. “Everybody was partying. Everybody was happy. You felt good. Everybody got together. I was expecting something worse, to be honest. I was expecting cars to roll over and fires everywhere and people breaking everything, which is what happened but not to the extent I imagined.”

Crews worked feverishly through the morning to clear debris and make repairs. Classes and other academic operations were held as scheduled.

A victory parade and rally are planned around the state capitol in Hartford on Saturday morning.

“The UConn Huskies men’s basketball team has been a dominant force in the NCAA Tournament and it will be an honor for us to welcome the coaches and players to downtown Hartford and give them the celebration they deserve,” said Governor Ned Lamont. statement.

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