Monday, March 22, 1999

Buckeye fans celebrate

Associated Press Writer

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stunned Ohio State fans who hadn't seen a winning team in five years screamed, sang and cheered as they watched the Buckeyes clinch their first Final Four appearance since 1968.

        “Unbelievable!” shouted Steve Kozak, 27, of Columbus, a lifelong Buckeye fan who watched the game at a campus bar and stayed to celebrate Saturday's 77-74 victory over St. John's.

        “Obviously no one expected us to be here. I can't comprehend it. I can't put it into words.”

        Except for a few honking horns and shouts of “Go Bucks,” the streets were relatively quiet in the campus area after the game. Winter quarter ended Friday and the school was on spring break. Campus police reported no arrests.

        It was standing room only at the Varsity Club, which was packed with hundreds of fans watching television screens broadcasting the game live. Ohio State banners and posters lined the walls. Fans clapped and sang as the jukebox played the Ohio State fight song repeatedly.

        “We knew they would be better, but we didn't think they could come this far,” said 1997 graduate James Boyd, who never saw the Buckeyes field a winning team during his college years.

        During a professional ice skating show at the Schottenstein Center on campus, fans watched the game on tiny televisions as skaters performed, sometimes groaning out loud in the final minutes of the game.

        Skater Scott Hamilton, an Ohio native, teased the audience about the distraction, jokingly scolding them. Later, he stood at the center of the ice with a microphone to announce the victory. The audience cheered.

        Later, fans waited at “The Schott” past midnight for the team's return to the home court where the Buckeyes lost only once. Fans wore scarlet and gray, waived Ohio State flags and chanted, “Final Four” and “Way to go Bucks.”

        The Buckeyes arrived at Port Columbus International Airport about 12:10 a.m. Sunday from Knoxville, Tenn., site of the NCAA South Regional.

        At Ohio State, O'Brien and his players thanked a crowd of hundreds who had waited for the team to return to the Schottenstein Center.

        “Let's go to Florida, baby,” Neshaun Coleman told the crowd.

        Afterward, players rushed up the hill to shake hands with and high-five the fans.


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