Say this for the Villanova loyal: They are not easily jaded or discouraged. So, with two minutes to go, junior Nick Chandler, his girlfriend, and other friends stayed in their seats until the inevitable became official.

“You root for your team regardless of whether you’re up 20 or down 20,” Chandler said. “You gotta keep faith and see what happens.”

When the game ended at 8:08 p.m. Saturday, what happened was their team lost to Kansas, 81-65, in the NCCA championship semifinal.

When it was over, the fans watching the game on giant TV screens at the Finneran Pavilion on the Main Line campus gave the team hearty cheers as they could see tears welling in some of the players’ eyes.

» READ MORE: Kansas races out to big lead, ends Villanova’s Final Four run, 81-65

It had been a raucous night at the pavilion as the Wildcats were chasing their third NCAA title in six years. The 4,500 fans crammed into the arena exhibited an exuberance evoking 1985, when Villanova stunned the basketball world by winning its first championship.

A depressing start — a 10-nothing Kansas run — failed to take the air out of a crowd that was hugging and chest-bumping as ’Nova narrowed the lead to single digits before the half.

“We’re a second-half team,” declared Ashley Peterson, a junior chemistry major, among those in the sea of blue watching on the five giant screens. The crowd cheered every shot the Wildcats made as though they had just won the game on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Those were the kind of moments that drew Amanda Ashton, 20, to Villanova. She had toured the school in 2018, the last time the Wildcats won it all. She went to every game in her freshman year. Then came COVID-19, which made this year all the more special.

“Coming back junior year, we were really excited to get this far in the championship and get to actually see Villanova for the good basketball school everyone talks about,” she said.

Sergey Nersesov, 45, a ’Nova mechanical-engineering professor, was on a recruiting mission. He was giving his 5- and 11-year-old daughters their first exposures to Wildcats basketball.

“I just wanted to introduce my kids to the whole spirit of Villanova, potentially for them joining the ranks of Villanova students in the future,” he said.

At one point in the second half it looked as though they would witness a comeback for the ages as ’Nova narrowed the gap to two points.

But it wasn’t to be. With three minutes left in the game, and ’Nova down by 12, some fans at the Pavilion began to slowly make their way to exits; others just slumped in their chairs and held their heads while those on court looked sullen and defeated.

» READ MORE: Collin Gillespie ended his Villanova career by giving everything, as usual. Against Kansas, it wasn’t enough. | Mike Sielski

When the game — and the Villanova season — ended, the mood in the pavilion not surprisingly was somber as fans were left to console each other, appearing to accept the loss with a degree of equanimity.

Liberty Guillette said she was disappointed in the result, not the effort. She pointed out that Villanova was without star Justin Moore, who had ripped his Achilles tendon.

“I think we could’ve won it if we had Justin,” she said.

Seniors Kate Bodensteiner and Rachel Constant were crying after the game, confronting the reality that the ’Cats won’t win an NCAA basketball championship during their Villanova careers.

”More than anything it’s that we’re never going to be students in this pavilion again, so it’s really hard,” said Bodensteiner.

But Constant said she won’t stop being a fan. “We’re gonna continue to root for the ’Cats next year and forever because ’Nova is not four years, it’s for life,” she said.