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Why these fans dressed as escaped wild animals Friday night

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Instead of donning school colors for their school's matchup with Ohio-Zanesville last Friday night, a group of Mount Vernon Nazarene University students decided to get a little more creative with their attire.

They arrived in elaborate costumes poking fun at Zanesville for making headlines across the nation last month when police had to kill 49 wild animals who had escaped from a preserve on the outskirts of the town.

Three students spent 90 minutes covering themselves in orange, black and white body paint from head-to-toe to look like Bengal tigers. Others came as lions, monkeys and zebras. And finally there were two Nerf gun-toting students who donned dark aviator shades and tight-skinned police officer costumes from the TV show "Reno 911."

"We'd never done body paint with so much detail, so I was proud of how it looked," Mount Vernon Nazarene junior Sean Johnson said. "We did a lap when we entered and people were laughing and cheering for us because they knew immediately what it was about. People seemed to like the idea."

The escaped animal costumes came as a complete surprise to Mount Vernon Nazarene officials who attended the game. Sports information director Dave Parsons acknowledged some people may be angry that the students made light of a story that resulted in the death of so many animals, but he's hopeful most will realize it was intended to be a lighthearted prank.

"There was a little worry that someone might take offense to it when we first saw it, but the kids that did it didn't want to cause any problems," Parsons said. "They never tried to reenact shooting at the animals because that was really sad.

"Ohio-Zanesville was here for a tournament, so I made sure I talked to the coach the next day and said, 'Hey, I hope you weren't offended by that or anything. And he said, 'Oh, that's college kids being college kids.' They were good-natured about it."

Theme nights like this one have become a tradition at Mount Vernon Nazarene basketball games the past few years.{YSP:MORE}

There has been "toga night" during which dozens of students marched into the gym wearing only white sheets. There has been "nerd night" during which students donned suspenders, button-down short-sleeve shirts and thick-rimmed glasses. And there was even a Christmas-themed night last December during which some students wore Santa Claus and reindeer costumes and others actually created a live nativity scene.

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The highlight of the Christmas-themed night was a halftime shooting contest between "Baby Jesus" and a "Christmas tree." In an outcome that's so hilarious it's almost hard to believe it's true, two wise men actually carried "Baby Jesus" off the court on their shoulders after he sank a half-court shot to win free tanning for a year.

"You had the PA announcer screaming in the background, 'And Baby Jesus wins it at the buzzer,'" Parsons said. "It's those unscripted things like that which turn out really funny."

Parsons admitted he also got a chuckle out of the escaped animal costumes Friday night.

"There were a couple times during the game when there was a lull and the monkeys started making noises and the lions and tigers would roar," he said. "It was really funny. There were definitely a few moments where they were in character."

(Thanks, Deadspin)

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