First home game draws rare crowd

“Anytime we play a rival school, I expect us to win.” But until Thursday’s 81-47 Lady Rattlers women’s basketball victory over Bethune-Cookman College, Wildcat Benjamin Johnson’s expectations had not been fulfilled against the Wildcats in a flagship sport since March of 2003.A standing-room-only crowd packed Gaither Gymnasium to watch the home opener for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.While both games had their forgettable moments – the women’s game was all but decided at halftime while the men’s game was a laugher for the first 25 minutes -the game, like any FAMU-B-CC match up, was more about the atmosphere surrounding the court than the court itself. Only in a rivalry game could an impromptu halftime step show between two rival sororities take as much precedence as the game itself.With the Marching 100 as well as DJ X on hand giving the 3,333 people in attendance musical ecstasy at every opportunity, the scene inside of Gaither Gym was reminiscent of a Saturday night home football game.”We could lose to any other school, but as long as we beat B-CC, that’s all that matters,” said drum major Michael Scott. Scott, who is a senior music education student from Miami, said that unlike the past few years, the Marching 100 will be exciting Rattler fans at every home basketball game, not just a selected few.No love, or lack thereof, in a rivalry is ever one-sided, but the crowd was overwhelmingly biased, as Bethune-Cookman supporters could be counted on one hand.One of the few Wildcat faces in the crowd was, Gerald Murphy, a Tallahassee resident and 1976 graduate of B-CC, who was as enthusiastic as the nearly 3,000 FAMU students in attendance.”I think that FAMU has to win versus B-CC in something,” Murphy said, referring to FAMU’s inability to beat the Wildcats in either football or basketball in nearly two years. “We know that you’ll play us harder than anyone.”However, the intensity was not restricted to the court as Murphy, who was dressed in maroon and gold from head to toe, spent most of his time bantering with members of the FAMU Strike Team or any other Rattler supporters who cared to listen to him.Amid the hoopla, one Rattler, Brandon Donaldson, said he would like to see the energy and excitement in Gaither Gym Thursday at every home basketball game. “We probably won’t see this many people (come) to every game,” said the sophomore pharmacy student from Dallas. “There’s not much support, but I know I’ll be here. I work every sporting event around my schedule.”While no one is sure of the crowd or atmosphere that will surround the nine remaining Rattler home basketball games, both the women’s and men’s team enjoyed playing in front of such a following.”It (the atmosphere) motivated me a lot, it changed my whole attitude,” said senior forward Quidara Russell, who was one of four Lady Rattlers to score in double figures. “Everything seemed like a real college atmosphere.””It was good to show that one team can beat B-CC,” Russell said.And to many Rattler fans, that’s all that matters.

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