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Louisville fans celebrate first title win since 1986

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April 8, 2013: Louisville fans celebrate following their 82-76 victory in the 2013 NCAA Men's National Basketball Championship game.AP

Louisville's celebration following the Cardinals' 82-76 victory over Michigan for the NCAA championship eventually required riot police and an armored carrier to quell a disturbance early Tuesday.

Before then, things were mostly peaceful as the Kentucky school and a city reveled in a title victory it had waited for since 1986.

Hundreds streamed onto Cardinal Boulevard after the win, screaming and dancing and lighting off small fireworks in revelry that lasted into the early hours.

"This means everything," said Connor Millay, 19, a Northern Kentucky University student who traveled to Louisville despite facing two tests Tuesday.

"I've been waiting for this my whole life," Millay said. "My dad experienced this. My grandpa experienced this. I needed one of these."

Elsewhere around town, Cardinals faithful partied in dormitories and around campus, in bars and restaurants and in living rooms after Louisville claimed its third national championship.

Most chose the quiet comforts of home over the noisy crowds that assembled in the Fourth Street Live! entertainment district. But when Louisville emerged victorious at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, emotions were felt everywhere.

"We've been waiting for this for the past 27 years," said Joe Barnes, 61, a University of Louisville alumnus who walked among the thousands of students on Cardinal Boulevard. "This has been one of the best teams that U of L has had. Ever. They've showed more spirit, more hustle. They believe in each other."

Standing ready were a combination of Louisville and campus police and sheriff's deputies, prepared for large crowds and celebrations that have been commonplace since the Cardinals reached the Final Four and then beat Wichita State in Saturday night's semifinal.

University spokesman John Drees said more than 5,000 people were estimated to be packed onto Cardinal Boulevard.

"Everybody's happy," he said. "Everybody's celebrating."

He said police arrested 10 people on charges of drunken and disorderly conduct. Several were injured, two on falls and one with a cut foot.

However, things got out of hand around Cardinal Boulevard and Third Street as the celebration was winding down.

Riot police were called in after an officer was attacked. Students quickly fled the area but several scuffles ensued and bottles were thrown, forcing police to use tear gas. The armored carrier was brought in and order was restored before 2:30 a.m.

The citywide party could be repeated Tuesday night if the Cardinals' women's team beats Connecticut for the NCAA championship in New Orleans. For now, the area is savoring the Cardinals' men's achievement.

"It's huge," said freshman Paul DeNeve. "We have not only won tonight but the women's team plays tomorrow."

Including the football team's Sugar Bowl win over Florida on Jan. 2, he said, "we are arguably one of the nation's best sports universities right now."

The men's championship was a nervous watch for Louisville's fan base, which saw the Cardinals trail by 12 in the first half before rallying to 38-37 at the break. Louisville eventually went ahead and led by 10 in the second, withstanding Michigan's attempts to come back.

At halftime, the near-capacity crowd at Cluckers bar was on their feet, leaping in unison after the Cardinals erased that deficit. That boosted confidence in closing the deal on Louisville's first title in a generation -- not to mention, anticipation for how to toast it.

"It's going to be a party," said Elliott Benjamin, 21, of Jeffersonville, Ind. "Not like Kentucky (last year). But it's going to be something."

Krissy Van Laan and friend Lindsay McDaniel had their spots at the Ri' Ra' Irish Pub, staying all the way through and witnessing the mayhem that unfolded immediately afterward.

"Everybody was so excited. It was unbelievable," Van Laan said. "Once it got down to 4 seconds left, I knew we had it. People were running out in the streets and excited. This is just unbelievable."

Police officers were stationed in areas where rowdy outdoor celebrations were expected, as they were on Saturday night after Louisville's win over Wichita State in the national semifinal.

Louisville assistant chief Kenton Bucker said additional police were moved to a two-block area of West Broadway because of fighting and disorderly behavior there this past weekend. There were nine arrests in the area, and crowds stayed out until around 1 a.m.

Buckner said about 200 police officers, sheriff's deputies, corrections officers and medical staff were working at sites where crowds were likely to gather.