Mississippi State students provided night no one will forget

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Getting over The Hump isn’t easy.

Humphrey Coliseum, referred to by its full name about as often as Tubby Smith is called “Orlando,” is small and seems unimposing if you get there early enough before the game. Then again if you get there early enough, you’d be sure to see the thousands of students waiting to get in.

At The Hump, students don’t buy tickets. They line up and wait. Once the house opens, about 3,500 are let in. The rest file back to their dorms.

Those students fortunate enough to make it in — they comprise about 35 percent of The Hump’s total crowd — know they’re lucky to get in. They show it, too, by the uncanny amount of sound they create.

Rick’s Rowdies, as they’re called, made their initial impression on UK long before the Cats arrived in Starkville. Thousands of Mississippi State students somehow gained access to DeMarcus Cousins’ cell phone number and flooded him with hundreds of calls and thousands of text messages throughout the week.

The telephone tension carried over into Tuesday’s warm-ups. As soon as students were let in, they filed down to the closest seats to the floor to begin to heckle Cousins. He didn’t respond, other than with a few giggles to himself. He waited until the game to respond.

In the first half, Cousins sliced through the lane, caught a pass and scored easily at the basket. Looking toward the students, he held his hand to his ear, miming a phone.

Rick’s Rowdies knew they deserved it. No boos, no jeers. Just silence.

As the game went on, and State hung with the Cats, the students stayed right there. During each timeout, they matched the decibel level of the already-blaring music. Every UK free throw, The Hump sounded more like The Runway.

When DeAndre Liggins pulled up for his would-be game-winner, though, The Hump went dead. But the rim clanked — you could hear it for a split-second — and the coliseum woke up. Five minutes left for the party.

The fans struggled to carry the momentum into the overtime. They even stooped to the lowest of low, throwing open water bottles on the court. State kept launching up ill advised 3-pointers, and the Bulldogs’ overworked legs were too tired to power the shots to the rim.

Even in a losing effort, those 3,500 youthful voices go a long way in a 10,000-seat arena. And those faithful fans will always remember the night the Bulldogs almost beat No. 2 UK:

Because their ears will never stop ringing.

James Pennington is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected].