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'I just love Michigan State'

Students elated after Spartans' first title in 21 years

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Posted: Tuesday April 04, 2000 02:49 AM

  Michigan State fans Spartans fans who couldn't make the trip to Indianapolis packed the Breslin Center in East Lansing to watch the game. AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State got off to a fast start, and so did its fans.

Crowds flocked to the streets and flooded the Breslin Center floor before the NCAA championship game was even over in Indianapolis Monday night, celebrating the school's first national championship in 21 years.

"To be here and be a part of this is so great," said Amanda Grube, a junior from Canton.

"We won, we won, we won," one group chanted after the Spartans' 89-76 victory over Florida.

Police estimate about 15,000 people gathered to celebrate outside the Cedar Village apartment complex, with a similar size crowd gathering downtown. People were high-fiving, chanting the school fight song and waving flags. Fireworks went off, drivers honked their horns and students waved from balconies.

"This moment right now, this place right here, is the best place and the best time to be," said Mike Ansted, financial consultant from Toledo, Ohio, and a '96 grad.

Students body surfed through the dense crowd. One student climbed a light police and threw his shirt into the crowd. Another student had a Florida Gator hanging by the neck from a pole. Three men had the letters M-S-U painted on their stomachs. Students held up newspapers with banner headlines proclaiming the Spartans as national champions.

"It's pretty rowdy, but so far, so good," said Dawn Gonzales, 23, a nursing student.

Sounds of glass breaking interrupted the music and cheering. There were reports of some injuries from thrown bottles and cans, but no serious injuries.

"Considering the number of people we have here, the number of problems has been very light," police Lt. Tom Johnstone said.

By 2:30 a.m., 21 people had been arrested on indecent exposure, disorderly conduct or alcohol-related charges, Lt. Kevin Daley said. The crowd in the area of Cedar Village had dropped to less than 1,000, he said.

The crowd booed as one person was handcuffed.

Many people were heading home, with the crowd at about half the size they were at the peak of the celebration.

After Michigan State's loss to Duke in last year's semifinals, more than 10,000 people ran through East Lansing. Some rioters overturned cars, set bonfires, broke windows and smashed parking meters, with much of the violence occurring in Cedar Village.

Police eventually arrested 132 people. Of the 113 people later convicted, 94 went to jail.

Daley said the celebration immediately following Monday night's victory was large and peaceful.

"It appears to be a joyous celebration. One of our people there said it was the largest crowd he had ever seen in the village," he said.

Of the 16 arrested, 11 were students at Michigan State, one each from Central Michigan, Michigan and Grand Valley State and two non-students, he said.

The celebration following Saturday's victory also was much calmer than a year ago. That crowd reached about 2,000 at its height, East Lansing Police Sgt. Ray Hellmann said.

Eight of the 30 people arrested that night were Michigan State students, Hellmann said. The arrests were for crimes including disorderly conduct, indecent exposure and alcohol possession.

On Monday, most of the revelers were just enjoying the moment. Freshman Brandon Rohrbaugh of Baltimore smoked a cigar in celebration.

"This feels good. I had my moments when I thought they might lose but when [A.J.] Granger kept hitting those 3s, I knew we were going to win in it," he said.

One side of Grand River, the main thoroughfare through campus, was closed. Some people were riding on top of a moving bus.

"The game was awesome to watch. The only thing that would have been better would have been watching it in Indianapolis," said Joe Turnquist, a 26-year-old alumnus.

At the Breslin Center, where thousands watched the game on four big screens, some who ran onto the Michigan State home floor tried to pull down the nets.

The celebration Monday night began even before the Spartans had scored their last basket in the 89-76 victory over Florida on Monday night.

With a little more than five minutes remaining and Michigan State leading 82-62, students already were celebrating near Cedar Village. Ten students watched the game from the back of a Chevy Blazer as dozens of police officers filed into the neighborhood.

The fans had been preparing for the celebration all day. Thousands waited in line to get into the Breslin Center, with some tailgating in the parking lot beforehand.

"I'm a senior and I just want to be festive," said Stacie Patten, a senior who tailgated with a friend for about two hours before getting in line. "I just love Michigan State."

Two celebrations and a parade are planned Wednesday for the national championship Michigan State basketball team.

The first celebration will be held at noon on the front steps of the state Capitol, with Gov. John Engler -- a Michigan State alumnus -- and other state officials planning on congratulating the team and coach Tom Izzo.

A second celebration will be held about 2:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium. It is scheduled to include video highlights of the season and remarks from Izzo and the players.

In between the two events, a "Parade of Champions" is planned down Michigan Avenue.


 
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