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Fan frenzy erupts at Shockers’ historic game

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 6:49 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 15, 2014, at 9:53 p.m.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How does Wichita State fare at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis?


As the clock ticked down on the final game of Wichita State’s perfect regular season, a roar went up in Koch Arena.

“Un-de-feat-ed!” the crowd chanted. “Un-de-feat-ed! Un-de-feat-ed!”

Ten-year-old Daniel Zoller waved his arms and wiggled his body inside the banana costume he wore to Saturday’s game because, he said, “I’m a crazy Shocker fan.”

The pep band started singing the refrain that helped usher last year’s team to the Final Four – “You don’t want to go to war with the Shockers” – and the crowd joined in, no instruments necessary.

As coach Gregg Marshall started pulling starters to the bench – Fred VanVleet, then Ron Baker, then Cleanthony Early – the cheers echoed from the student section to the top rows of the Roundhouse.

Baker clutched his jersey and displayed it to the crowd: No. 31.

Thirty-one wins, zero losses.

This is what undefeated looks like, sounds like, feels like.

“Magical,” said WSU junior Kara Aaby, a Shocker fan and season ticket holder since birth.

“It’s been a crazy ride, and I love it. It’s so much fun,” she said. “All the excitement – I woke up with more excitement today that I did on Christmas.”

Saturday’s final game was another sellout. Thousands of Shocker faithful wanted to witness history, salute the WSU seniors and wish the team well as it heads to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis next week.

Some, like freshman Scott Harmon, waited nearly two days – 47 hours, but who was counting? – in the “Marshallville” tent city outside Koch Arena to secure their seats. He and his brother, James, and friend Joe Stroud used heaters and electric blankets to keep warm.

Once inside on Saturday morning, they planted themselves on the front row of the student section, and Harmon unpacked his black and yellow face paint.

“We’re making history,” he said. “We’ve been making history all season, but it’s time to set records that no one will beat for decades.”

Fans brought signs that honored Shocker players: “Can Lufile the Anger?” and “Evan Sent From Heaven.” “Legen-DARIUS,” “CLEarly Epic” and “100% Cotton.”

“WU came, WU saw, WU beat ’em all,” another sign read.

They did. And soundly.

Saturday’s score was never close. But the crowd stayed in the game despite the blowout, perhaps because of it, and few left early.

Nearly every one of the 10,506 fans stuck around after the game for a presentation of the MVC Championship trophy and a salute to senior players.

As they celebrated, the scoreboard flashed “31-0: The Undefeated Season.”

Lenny Edwards brought a sign that said, “Why not Wichita? #1.” It didn’t refer to the Associated Press poll or those who dispute the strength of the Shockers’ schedule, he said.

“This team can go all the way,” Edwards said. “They can win the national championship. Why not?”

Why not Wichita? Why not now? On Saturday, with a perfect regular season behind them and the madness of March just beginning, anything felt possible.

“Sometimes things happen that are just special, and this team is special,” Edwards said. “You have to grab on to moments like this and not let them slip away. The Shockers haven’t let them slip away.”

A small contingent of Missouri State fans in the top rows of Section 123 cheered for their Bears, wearing maroon shirts that said, “Wichita is not a state.”

A Shocker fan not far away answered with a bright yellow sign: “No, Wichita is not a state,” it read. “We are a nation.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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