IRVINE (CBSLA) — In the end, the score did not matter as much as what UC Irvine’s participation in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament meant to students and alumni — there’s always next year.

The Anteaters lost to the Oregon Ducks Sunday night 73-54.

When it was close, the fans were ecstatic. KCAL9’s Laurie Perez saw this first hand at a watch party on the UC Irvine campus.

She reported that it was “a great atmosphere to watch the game. The crowd cheered as hard as they could.”

While it was not in the cards, the fans said they loved the effort.

Anteater Nation lived and died with every basket. A comeback effort in the second half briefly had fans dreaming of moving on to the next round. The game ended in a painfully familiar way to the Anteater’s first and only other tournament.

“Very similar to when we played Louisville in 2015. I mean we stuck with them, I mean, we just came up a little bit short,” said alum Connor Crowley.

If the crowd at the viewing party could have willed the team to win, they would have done so.

“The first game they did [a] very good job so I was so excited so I came here tonight,” said Yoshi Sawi.

Hope and heart weren’t enough. The Ducks proved too mighty. Still fans said they were grateful for the opportunity.

“I’m so thankful of UCI alumni, Anteaters right here. We’re gonna come back, make a comeback next year, and we’re going to win the NCAA tournament,” said Clinton Ng.

Next season can’t come soon enough for some.

“I’m just so proud that they got this far,” said Fritzi Washington.

Perez reported that to a man and woman, everyone said the Anteaters will be back and just about everyone said it will be next season.

For more about the Anteaters, check out their official website.

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