But Saturday's 66-60 win over Kentucky may have been the loudest I have ever heard.
It was a game of runs. Like a great heavyweight battle, both sides fought back and forth. It was not your typical UK-Vandy game, for sure.
Never mind that Vandy was coming off a heartbreaking loss at home on Wednesday night against South Carolina. Never mind that the last time Kentucky lost a road game in the SEC was almost two years ago. Never mind that Vandy's NCAA hopes seemed to be fading away. Never mind that it was a nationally televised game.
This was one of those games where hats must be removed once again in honor of the student body. They were there in force early, and they were loud. One might have thought that with Wednesday's loss at the buzzer to South Carolina, the energy level might be down-- not so in the student section. They were hyped for a great game.
Up in 3F, the "Blue Misters" (Kentucky fans) made their presence known as usual. They were looking for another victory, and smelling blood in the water around the Commodore ship.
UK opened with a 5-0 spurt, aided by three early turnovers, but Vandy's tallest player soon became its biggest. David Przybyszewski lit up the 'Cats for 11 quick points, starting with a steal that turned into a coast-to-coast drive for a dunk. He followed that by hitting three 3-pointers to electrify the crowd.
Combine that with Matt Freije's shooting, and Vandy clawed its way to a lead. Throughout the first half, the Vandy fans would be standing and cheering for 3-4 minutes... then Kentucky would make a run, and their fans would be cheering. The lively tempo of the first half left fans drained and wondering what would happen next.
At the half many of us talked about the South Carolina loss and what Vandy needed to do to pull this game out. "Just 20 more minutes of solid basketball," I told another Memorial Maniac up in 3F. (Truth told, his faith in Vandy may have exceeded mine).
I've seen it before, last year for example, when Vandy had a lead and looked to be cruising at half, only to have Tubby Smith and his team come back and wipe us out. Last year was a turning point for both teams, as UK went undefeated in the SEC, and Vandy went into a tailspin that didn't end until the season was over. Could Tubby pull another magical speech out of his hat and command another second-half comeback?
UK opened the half with 6 straight points, all on layups, to take a 41-40 lead. Then one of the strangest things happened. Coach Kevin Stallings, clearly ticked off, subbed his entire starting lineup for the bench players. It looked as if things were headed downhill.
The first eight minutes of the second half we were flat-out dominated by Kentucky. They built a 53-43 lead on an 18-3 run, and the Misters were going crazy, shouting at us Vandy fans and seemingly having the time of their lives. Kentucky was scoring at will on mostly layups or short jumpers.
But as I said, this was a game of runs... whichever team got the last run in would likely win the game. Well... "In Vandyland they'll say...Vandy's defensive heart grew three times larger this day." The final 12 minutes of the game played out to the rough and ragged tune of defense. Kentucky went cold. Their lack of depth seemed to affect them greatly, and Vandy slowly cut into the lead. Coach Smith had to sub for his starters, and Vandy made its run-- a basket here and a basket there. Soon VU fans were back into the game with full voice. With under four minutes left, Kentucky held a 60-58 lead.
The fuse that lit the eruption was a long-range bomb from freshman Dan Cage. It occurred with just under three minutes to play, after a steal by Scott Hundley under the UK basket. There was Dan, wide open in the left corner-- the same spot from which he had missed two wide-open shots against South Carolina. This time the shot was true and beautiful, as it touched nothing but the bottom of the net. Vandy led 61-60, and the old building nearly blew it's top off!
We all knew this Kentucky team had pulled off many last-second miracles already this season-- but Vandy's defense held its own. Vandy had a 62-60 lead with about a minute to go.
Another spark ignited another wild outburst of emotion. Russell Lakey, truly an unsung hero on this team, playing some of the best defense I have seen, forced a steal, and was fouled immediately. Scott Hundley's free throws put Vandy up 64-60 with 17 seconds left. Kentucky came down the floor and tried to score a quick bucket, but the short shot wound up in Matt Freije's hands. He sank two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to ice the game, 66-60.
Yes, Vandy outscored UK 23-7 over the last 12 minutes to win this game. It was the first loss on the road for UK in 11 games. The last time Kentucky lost on the road was at Memorial in 2002.
And suddenly, the Mist vanished into thin air, like a... mist.