Kent State Fans Partying Even After Dream Season Ends

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

KENT, Ohio (AP) - Kent State fans tried to will their team into the Final Four on Saturday night, but the euphoria of the Golden Flashes' NCAA tournament run finally came to an end.

Nearly 500 students and alumni at the campus student center stood and cheered as the final seconds of their team's dream season ticked away. Kent State lost 81-69 to Indiana in the South Regional final.

"All season Kent State was overlooked. I will party tonight because they shouldn't have gotten this far," junior John Muzik said.

Muzik said Indiana just out-shot the Golden Flashes, ending their nation-leading 21 game win streak.

"We knocked them out last year. They got us back this year," he said, referring to Kent State's first-round upset of the Hoosiers in 2001.

For juniors Dean Fangman and John Proudfoot, it was worth postponing a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, Fla., so they could cheer the Golden Flashes with other fans.

"Forget spring break; this is like the biggest thing ever in Kent," Proudfoot said.

Fans cheered to the bitter end -- at one point Kent State went on an 11-0 run, and some thought they would make a miracle comeback.

Most fans agreed Indiana's making 15-of-19 3-pointers was the difference.

"Indiana is just shooting 3s like it's their job," said junior Katie Hunter, who admitted she jumped on the bandwagon late into Kent State's Mid-American Conference record 30-win season.

Deepakraj Shanthilal, a graduate student from India, said he has become a huge basketball fan in his eight months at Kent State.

"After I came here I started liking basketball. After the 21 wins I am really liking basketball," said Shanthilal, who attended every home game this year.

Comedian Drew Carey was among a crowd watching the game at a nearby campus bar, Ray's Place.

The Cleveland native probably could have pulled some strings and gotten tickets to the game in Lexington, Ky., but said he'd rather watch at his old college hangout.

"I wanted to be in Kent. What do I want to be in Lexington for?" Carey said.

Carey, a two-time Kent State dropout, said he was kicked out for the first time in 1975 with a 0.5 grade point average. He said he's thrilled with the team's performance.

"It's just fun to see Kent winning," he said.

The Golden Flashes' success has energized alumni and students.

Alumnus Nick Gautam, 42, of Chagrin Falls, said he bought a yellow Kent State sweat shirt and has been wearing it with pride all week. He also bought a sweat shirt to ship to a fellow graduate who works in Singapore.

"When I was here, there was never anything to cheer for," the 1982 graduate said. "You always watched Ohio State or other schools."

Kent State president Carol Cartwright hopes the team's success helps enrollment. Record numbers of applications rolled into Miami of Ohio after it reached the tournament's round of 16 in 1999. Kent was only the second Mid-American Conference team to reach the round of eight since Ohio in 1964.

Fifth-year senior Joe Maylish, 23, said Kent State finally had something to be known for other than the deaths of four students shot by National Guardsmen during a May 4, 1970, anti-war protest.

"Finally we have something that's positive on our side," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)