Missouri returns to rousing reception

Monday, March 25, 2002

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri basketball Coach Quin Snyder thanked fans and declared "we don't have anything to cry about" as his team basked in a rousing welcome home after Saturday's West Regional NCAA loss to Oklahoma.

Hoarse and tired, Snyder grinned at the cheers of about 200 fans who stayed up past midnight for the team's return to campus. "Wow, wow!" Snyder said as his players lined up behind him on a stage at the Hearnes Fieldhouse.

"They've expended so much energy -- physically, obviously, but also emotionally," Snyder said of the team. "I'm so proud to be associated with them."

No players spoke during the brief rally, but several paused to high-five fans and sign autographs.

Snyder praised his team's only senior, Clarence Gilbert. He said the Tigers and their fans "owe a special thanks" to Gilbert, whose final college game was a disappointing display of missed shots in Saturday's 81-75 loss in San Jose, Calif.

Missouri fans were jubilant about their Tigers' first trip to the NCAA's round of eight since 1994.

"Yes, I was disappointed not to get a win, but I am also happy to have these young guys coming back for next season. Missouri will rule next time," said Marit Johnson, of Ashland. She stood out in a furry Missouri hat, gold with a bold black Tiger stripe. "It's so fashionable," she said with a laugh at the rally.

Van Alexander, 16, a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, said he couldn't think of a better place to be on a late weekend night during spring break than greeting the Tigers in person.

"Just wait, they are going to play some fine ball next season and I'll be right there cheering them on," Alexander said.

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