Minnesota fans on campus cheered loudly until the end of the Gophers’ season.

Kent Erdahl

The crowd watching Minnesota’s Final Four game at Williams Arena sat silent as the closing seconds ticked off the clock in the team’s 67-58 loss to Connecticut on Sunday night.

But the hush that came over the crowd was uncharacteristic of the energy that ran through the arena during the game.

The quiet didn’t last long. As the buzzer sounded, the Gophers fans rose to their feet and applauded the team, joining in the “Minnesota Rouser” for one last time.

“It’s not really disappointing because we know how great they could be,” student and football linebacker Kyle McKenzie said. “We’ve seen what a women’s team can do now.”

McKenzie was one of several hundred fans who watched the game on large projection screens at the Williams Arena viewing party.

The crowd, consisting largely of families and University students, cheered every Gophers basket. During timeouts, the dance team led cheers and fans answered Gophers trivia questions.

Ben Bertram, a captain on the cheerleading team who couldn’t make the trip to New Orleans, said the atmosphere in Williams Arena gave fans who couldn’t travel a nice alternative.

“It definitely captured some of the energy from the games this year,” Bertram said. “When you’re in Williams Arena, you feel like you’re in the game.”

Event staffer Regina Carlson, who has worked women’s basketball games for three years, said she was not surprised by the turnout.

“They have really loyal fans,” she said.

Jerry Tillman of St. Paul brought his children and some of their friends to the viewing party. He said all the children – male and female – enjoyed watching the women’s team this year.

Other campus-area establishments saw fans show up to support the team. Although some restaurants and bars might have had fewer patrons because of the viewing party, owners and managers remained pleased with business.

Todd Dupont, co-owner of Big Ten Restaurant & Bar in Stadium Village, saw business taper off during the game. But he said families nearly filled the restaurant before leaving for the viewing party.

“It’s about what I expected,” he said. “Williams Arena is a great venue for families.”

The majority of fans who came out to Stadium Village flocked to Sally’s Saloon & Eatery, where the atmosphere mirrored that at the viewing party.

The group remained raucous throughout the game, even starting chants of their own as the team made a run in the second half.

“It’s intense and frustrating,” student A.J. Norenberg said. “I heard the chanting and I had to join in.”

Norenberg was one of many fans who only recently considered coming out to watch a women’s game. Despite the ending, she said she remained positive about the team and optimistic about the future of women’s sports.

“I’m still proud of them,” she said. “It’s awesome seeing a women’s team succeed, and even though (Lindsay) Whalen’s leaving, I think there will be a lot of excitement for next year.”

Mike Weyer, an Augsburg student, also remained optimistic and even gave some advice about offseason training.

“I still bet the women’s team could beat the men,” he said. “I don’t think the guys would even want to play.”