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March 26, 2010

KSU players in awe of Aggieville celebration

Early Friday morning, after he was unable to sleep in the hours following one of the biggest victories in Kansas State sports history, Jamar Samuels pulled out his cell phone. He discovered a photo that best told the tale of the significance behind the Wildcats' 101-96 double-overtime thriller over Xavier. The picture showed K-State students and fans flooding the streets in Aggieville. Jacob Pullen had mixed emotions about the whole deal.

"That's crazy. I can't even be there. I'm mad," Pullen said Friday afternoon some 15 hours after No. 2 seed and seventh-ranked K-State punched its ticket to the program's first Elite Eight in 22 years.

Pullen finally grinned, perhaps contemplating the joy the Wildcats are bringing their fans back home.

"That's exciting," he said. "They're behind us. We're doing something K-State hasn't done for a while and it's good to see everybody in Manhattan is behind us. They could've just been sitting at home watching it but instead they were packing Aggieville. They're supporting us."

Accounts from eyewitnesses suggest an estimated crowd of 2,500 filled Moro Street in the Aggieville entertainment district near the school campus. A video on YouTube.com depicted an orderly yet jubilant scene in front of pubs and bars shortly after the Wildcats' feat in front of 17,254 at EnergySolutions Arena became the nation's top sports story.

"Aggieville" was one of the Top 10 trending topics on twitter.com late Thursday night. K-State student body Vice President Wayne Stoskopf took photographs of the celebration upon his arrival to Aggieville after he watched the game on the west end of Manhattan.

"Apparently, you couldn't get a seat in Aggieville at 5 p.m. it was that packed already," Stoskopf said. "After the game I drove down to Aggieville and Anderson Avenue was locked up bumper-to-bumper, just a line of cars. You could just hear people hollering, screaming and chanting.

"Packs of students ran from the residence halls and headed toward Aggieville. When I finally parked a few blocks away, you could hear a huge 'K-S-U' chant, and then another one. In front of Kite's the crowd was so big that (police officers) blocked off traffic at that point. As the last car passed by, everyone just jumped into the streets for a giant mosh pit. People crowd surfed and just celebrated the win."

Even immediately after his team's victory, K-State head coach Frank Martin admitted, "I wish I was 21 years old and in there right now. I would be, in the day, having fun if I was in Aggieville right now."

Samuels said from the picture he received "it's like the fireworks in Times Square. You can't walk anywhere. It's just looking crazy right now. I hope they cancel school on Monday.

"That's crazy. There aren't even 200 people when I go down (to Aggieville) sometimes. For there to be 2,500 is amazing. Hopefully, I'll see them soon."

Center Curtis Kelly was surprised at the reports that depicted a celebration that Kelly said "you usually see for a national championship."

"But for them to have a pep rally for the Sweet 16 and then when we make it to the Elite Eight, for them to have a party out there, it just shows how excited they are and how we're accomplishing so much," Kelly said.

Pullen said he hadn't yet been able to grasp the magnitude of the Wildcats' accomplishment.

"Hopefully, we can do more and go to the Final Four and then they'll really appreciate it even more," Pullen said. "The further we go, the more they'll appreciate it. I don't' think it's sunk in yet. I hope it doesn't sink in with anyone."

Florescent orange signs in Aggieville on Friday read "NO PARKING" for Saturday between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. Police plan to block the streets from traffic so the expected crowds can fill the streets as K-State takes on Butler in Salt Lake City.

K-State, 29-7 and seeking its first Final Four in 46 years and its first 30-win season in school history, will face No. 5 seed and 11th-ranked Butler, 31-4, in the West Region finals at approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena.

"We're in the Elite Eight and there's so much more (to go), but just the way the game ended in double overtime everyone just had to go into the streets and celebrate," Stoskopf said.

"We know there are bigger games ahead."





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