EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Local restaurants and important figures are celebrating and sending their congratulations to the University of Evansville Purple Aces’ Men’s Basketball team.
The team was greeted by a crowd of students and fans on Tuesday when they returned from Lexington, Kentucky. The Purple Aces defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 67-64 in the first matchup between the two in program history.
A pep rally for the team was held Wednesday at the Ridgeway Student Center on UE’s campus:
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke took to Twitter after the win saying, “Congratulations to Walter McCarty and the UE Basketball team on your win over #1 Kentucky.”
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb sent his congratulations tweeting, “A Huge win for UE Athletics, beating the number 1 team in the country.” Lieutenant Governor, and Evansville native Suzanne, Crouch also praised the Aces saying, “What a game for my hometown team! Way to go!”
Local restaurants are also getting in on the celebration.
The Chick-Fil-A on Crosspoint Boulevard will give a free chicken sandwich or 8 count nuggets to any customer who mentions the Aces when ordering. That offer is limited to one item per guest. and runs from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 13.
The Rooftop in downtown Evansville is also celebrating. According to their Facebook page if you mention “do the John Hall” to a team member, flex, and take a picture you can get a free small pizza.
This is a day that these players, this coach, and these students will never forget.
The Purple Aces were treated like royalty Wednesday. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the guys who did what some thought was impossible.
“You know, I think like a lot of people it was like, are you kidding? I mean it was a stunner,” says Mayor Winnecke.
“The support is outrageous, that’s what keeps us going and that’s what keeps us motivated," explains Aces Forward Deandre Williams. "So if the fans keep doing that, more games will be won.”
Coach McCarty was sure to address the crowd, telling everyone how much he appreciates their support. He says, he hasn’t got much sleep in the last 24 hours.
“Not much! Even when I try, I haven’t been able to so,” Coach McCarty says. "I just don’t want to wake up and someone say, ‘sike, this didn’t happen.’”
But even in this crazy, almost unthinkable celebration, he finds himself in, Coach McCarty says he is just glad his players get to savor the moment.
“Gracious of our students to be out there in the cold to welcome us back," Coach McCarty explains. "But our guys really loved it, they were excited. Again, this is something that they are going to remember for the rest of their lives and it’s just an awesome moment for them and I’m glad they embraced it and enjoyed it.”
Coach McCarty even said, the night before the game he watched the scene from Hoosiers where the coach measured the lines on the floor. He used this scene to help deliver his message to the team.
No matter the stage or the opponent, their goal is the same.