Butler fans pack Hinkle for viewing party
Thousands of fans packed historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to watch Butler's 70-62 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the Final Four in Houston on Saturday night.
As the final seconds ticked away, the frenzied crowd responded with a standing ovation, waved pom-poms and Bulldogs towels and blew air horns. A sea of blue and white shirts and banners covered both sides of the court.
''The fan base is insane,'' said Josh Mariner, 29, who attended the free event with his wife and two young children. ''Coming here was amazing. We wanted to give the kids an experience, and this was a good experience for them to have. It exceeded our expectations.''
The fans began lining up hours before tipoff, hoping Butler could return to the national championship game for the second straight season. There were four big-screen televisions, and a disc jockey played music during commercial breaks and halftime.
It was the second year in a row Butler hosted a viewing party at the fieldhouse. Last season, the Bulldogs beat Michigan State in the semifinals just a few miles from their campus at Lucas Oil Stadium, then lost to Duke in the title game.
''It was crazier this year,'' said 23-year-old Ben Goshorn-Maroney, a Butler graduate who attended the viewing party last year. ''From the first five minutes, we were all screaming. It almost felt like the team was on the court.''
Goshorn-Maroney is expecting the party to continue right through Monday night's championship game.
''If anyone shows up for class on Monday, I'll be very surprised,'' he said.