Huskies have a big cheering squad back in Storrs, too

Storrs - Hundreds of UConn fans gathered inside the school's basketball arena Tuesday night expecting - more than hoping - to watch their women's basketball team win an eighth national title.

The group of mostly students included members of the UConn men's team. They were joined by one of the school's three pep bands and a cheerleading squad to watch the game on three large screens set up in the middle of the Gampel Pavilion court.

The crowd sang along with the national anthem; screamed when the UConn players were introduced and booed the Cardinals.

Most even followed the UConn tradition of standing until the team scored its first bucket, and they chanted "Let's go Huskies," when Louisville took the early lead.

When Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit a bucket to put the Huskies in front, the stands shook.

"This just shows how much love we have for our basketball," UConn men's guard Shabazz Napier said. "It's so gratifying to see this. It's something we all cherish."

At halftime, with a 19-point lead, some began heading to the exits.

Husky fans are used to this. Between the men's and women's programs, UConn has won 10 national titles since 1995 and is 10-0 in championship games. The UConn women came in 7-0, including a 22-point win over Louisville in 2009.

"It never gets old," said Evan Shuris, 18, a freshman from Kennebunk, Maine. "There is nothing like winning it all."

It's been a tough year for UConn basketball, with conference realignment and the men's program barred from the NCAA tournament because of academics.

But senior Sam Darby, 21, said this was a chance to again celebrate the school as the center of the college basketball world.

"We're UConn; we're a little school out in the middle of nowhere," said Darby, who joined some friends in painting the letters U-C-O-N-N on their chests. "This is who we are, this is what we do."

Many fans said they were more excited about the national semifinal against Notre Dame, after three losses to Irish earlier this season.

"That was a step, but this is the final step," said Kristen Rickard a sophomore from St. George, Maine.

Huskies fans also were counting on the women to block Louisville from joining UConn as the only schools to win men's and women's titles in the same year. UConn accomplished that feat in 2004.

Students said they didn't expect any postgame celebrations to get out of hand.

"I think the thing about the women is that you kind of expect them to win, so it's not as exciting," said Jenna Sargent, 20, a junior.

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