Loss or not, Tennessee fans leaving the KFC Yum Center Thursday night were proud of their players.
During the Vols’ Sweet Sixteen appearance, fans took their love for the orange and white on the road to be sure the stands showed a “sea of orange“, in the words of one fan.
“This season, but really last season, and the two before, since Coach Barnes has been here, have just been wonderful seasons because first of all, the basketball is really fun to watch and secondly, you can’t help but pull for these guys,“ said Doug Reynolds, a 20-year men’s basketball season ticket holder.
Tennessee took Purdue to overtime Thursday night before falling short…and seeing their season come to an end. Even so, fans remain positive.
“It’s just a great experience, we’re students right now at the University of Tennessee and it’s just great to be at UT and be part of this great history,“ said Rachel Hurley.
Other fans say they traveled as a family, generations of Tennessee fans – just to watch the Vols in person.
PHOTOS: Purdue vs Tennessee
“I love Tennessee as much as my sister does, we go to all the games, all the home games, some of the away ones. We just want to see them go as far as they can,“ said Robin Maddux.
Alumni and fans met before tip-off at the Downtown Marriott in Louisville for a pep rally, sending the Vols off to the arena with “Rocky Top“ and cheers.
The pep rally featured Tennessee’s mascot, Smokey, and The Pride of the Southland marching band.
Many fans say this they’ve made the trip to experience their inaugural Big Tournament game because they believe in Tennessee could go further.