Losses leave Tulsa, Okla. St. fans empty
Posted: Sunday March 26, 2000 09:00 PM
It was supposed to be the greatest day in the state's college basketball history, with two teams -- Oklahoma State and Tulsa -- poised to join the NCAA tournament's Final Four.
But in a few short hours, dreams of an Oklahoma basketball renaissance were dashed.
Tulsa fell to North Carolina 59-55 in the South Region final Sunday afternoon, and Oklahoma State lost to Florida 77-65 just three hours later in the finals of the East Region.
But fans seemed to take the bad news in stride.
In Stillwater, no big organized events had been scheduled, due in part to the ongoing renovation of Gallagher-Iba Arena.
A few hundred students gathered at the Oklahoma State student union to watch the game, but it was otherwise quiet in town, said OSU student Matthew Clayton.
"No more basketball fever," Clayton said. "It was kind of disappointing, but it was good we got that far. It gave us some good news for a couple of weeks."
About 300 people crowded Eskimo Joe's in downtown Stillwater to watch both the Tulsa and Oklahoma State games, said employee Brent Adkins.
He said a scene which had started out as "pretty crazy" began to wind down as Florida built on to its big lead at the end of the game.
"We're all kind of wishing we were winning," Adkins said in the closing minutes of the game.
At Varsity Sports Grill in downtown Oklahoma City, manager Greg Seal said the tournament has been pulling in big crowds, but that people decided to stay home to watch Sunday's games.
"We had a decent crowd but nothing real major," he said. "A lot of disappointed fans."
Seal said it seemed like Florida's depth did in Oklahoma State's experience, but he said he sees Tulsa coming back strong again next year -- with coach Bill Self at the helm.
"I think he'll be back. He's established himself in Tulsa and would have as much success there as anywhere else," Seal said.
Speaking of Tulsa, more than 5,000 fans crowded the Reynolds Center there to watch the Tar Heel-Golden Hurricane game on four screens from the lowered scoreboard. They were on their feet cheering wildly as Tulsa still had a chance in the final seconds.
Fans stretched to the arena's upper levels. They screamed "Go TU!" to a team that couldn't hear them and waved golden pompoms even when there wasn't a chance of CBS turning its television cameras on them.
But as Tulsa's chances disappeared in the final four seconds, fans began to hug each other and head for the exits.
An announcer urged them to return later Sunday night to welcome back "Tulsa's greatest team ever," as the team returned from the game in Austin, Texas.