I've seen some great players get honored on Senior Day at The Hump. Timmy Bowers, Lawrence Roberts, Jarvis Varnado, Dee Bost - just to name a few. But no individual player's Senior Day compared to that of Charles Rhodes.
I remember walking into The Hump for Rhodes' final game on March 8, 2008, and being handed a thick-foam poster that read "Feed The Beast" and featured Rhodes' name and number around a graphic of a basketball player dunking the ball. His family had printed up a substantial amount, and they could be seen all throughout the coliseum that day.
As Rhodes came out of the tunnel, he paused and held up his hands, soaking in the applause from a great crowd. As he walked to meet his family at midcourt, you could tell he was shaken. His eyes were red and tears were running down his face. I've never seen another player so emotional prior to their final home game. You could see how much Mississippi State had meant to him, and how much he had given to his University.
Almost 9,000 showed up to see State take on the LSU Tigers, coached by former MSU guard Butch Pierre.
Ben Hansbrough and Charles Rhodes pushed State out to a quick 17-7 lead just six minutes into the game. However, State was unable to stop the hot-shooting Tigers, and a late 13-4 LSU run gave the visiting team a 43-42 advantage at halftime.
LSU was carried by three players - Anthony Randolph, Marcus Thornton, and Chris Johnson - who accounted for 39 of LSU's 43 points in the first half.
The Bulldogs' effort was spread around, with Rhodes scoring 10, Hansbrough adding 9, Gordon 8, and 10 points off the bench.
As the second half started, LSU continued their hot streak and extended the lead to 49-44 just two minutes later.
And then they went ice cold. In the next 12 minutes, the Tigers missed 16 of 18 shots (6 resulting from blocks) and committed six turnovers, resulting in just 5 points. Meanwhile, State scored 23 points, led by Jamont Gordon's 12 points during the streak.
With 6:30 left, State held a comfortable 14 point lead.
And then Marcus Thornton caught fire. He hit 5 of 6 threes in a 4-minute window and trimmed State's lead to 4 with 2:18 left. But unlike Shan Foster earlier in the week (who hit his final 9 threes as State lost to Vandy in overtime) Thornton misfired on his last 3 attempts. Rhodes & Gordon hit 7 of 8 final free throws to clinch the game.
With 10 seconds left and State holding a 9-point lead, Riley Benock was subbed in for Charles Rhodes, and everyone at The Hump came to their feet. After congratulating his on-court teammates, Rhodes jogged to center court and pointed at the large Mississippi State logo. Bending down, he put both hands on the court and kissed the logo prior to hugging his coaches and teammates on the bench.
"It was definitely emotional for me out there," Rhodes said, an obvious understatement.
State won 84-75, and "The Beast" finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. A fitting end to a stellar career as a Bulldog, and the best senior finale I can remember at The Hump.
After the game, the SEC West Champs cut down the nets for the fourth time in six years, and I got that poster signed by Charles Rhodes. To this day, it hangs in my house, representing one of many fond memories I've experienced at Mississippi State.