TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - It was the shot of his life, the shot of the
tournament and maybe even one for the ages.
"It kind of worked out good," Ty Rogers said, in the
understatement of the day.
Rogers hit a desperation 26-foot 3-pointer with three defenders
in his face and no time on the clock, and 12th-seeded Western
Kentucky turned in the upset of the NCAA tournament, beating Drake
101-99 in overtime Friday in the first round of the West Regional.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (28-5) overcame a 16-point deficit in
the final 8 minutes of regulation and led 99-98 after Jonathan
Cox's two free throws with 5.7 seconds to play. But Tyrone
Brazelton raced across midcourt and kicked it to Rogers, whose 3
from the wing gave the Hilltoppers (28-6) their first tournament
victory since 1995.
"I think what you just saw out there is why this is the
greatest show on earth," Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn said.
"I can't say enough about Drake. Unbelievable character,
toughness, heart. They played so hard. They countered everything.
What a great team."
Brazelton finished with a career-high 33 points for the
Hilltoppers, delivering nearly every big shot they needed until
finding Rogers camped out well beyond the 3-point arc for the game
"We tried to slow down the ballhandler as much as possible,"
Drake's Adam Emmenecker said. "I thought we played pretty good
defense. He pitched the ball back to a guy shooting from 26 feet or
whatever it was. He just stepped up and made a big play ... not
much else we could have done."
Cox had a career-high 29 points and 16 rebounds for Drake, which
was making its first tournament appearance since 1971.
Rogers' final shot was the 30th successful 3-pointer of the
game, breaking the previous NCAA mark set by West Virginia and
Louisville two years ago. Western Kentucky and Drake combined for
70 3-point attempts, also breaking the previous record of 66 set by
UCLA and Cincinnati in 2002.
Rogers danced his way back to the other end of the floor, where
he was mobbed by teammates across from the dejected Drake bench.
The celebration moved back to the other end, where the senior
reserve pounded his chest before the Hilltopper faithful.
Brazelton said the winning play was designed to get the ball to
the rim - since the Hilltoppers only trailed by one. But coming out
of the timeout, Rogers told Brazelton he had a slightly different
plan in mind.
"He said, 'Don't be afraid to kick it to me,"' Brazelton said.
And he wasn't. Brazelton crossed halfcourt, zigged to his right
and threw a perfect pass right to Rogers' hands.
"At one point today, I thought everything was going well and we
had all the momentum in that overtime," Drake coach Keno Davis
"But you have to give them a lot of credit. They made the last
shot and it looked like it was going to go that way, the team with
the last chance in their hand was going to win."
The irony was that Drake did everything it wanted to do
defensively on the last possession.
During the final timeout, Davis said he was having visions of
some historic NCAA buzzer-beating, gamewinning drives, a la Danny
Ainge for BYU or Tyus Edney for UCLA. So he told his players to
stop the drive, extend the defense and make a Hilltopper shoot from
deep if at all possible.
"Even though it might be easier to lose by 20 and not play your
best game and not do anything right, you want to go out with your
best effort," Davis said. "And I think we did today."
Western Kentucky rejects the notion it is just another mid-major
team trying to make a name for itself in the NCAA tournament. The
Hilltoppers have a history of success that proves they belong.
Although it was their first victory on college basketball's
biggest stage since a six-point overtime win against Michigan in
the opening round in 1995, the Sun Belt tournament champs are in
the NCAAs for the 20th time. They'll try for their first trip to
the round of 16 since 1993 on Sunday.
Brazelton led a dazzling display of 3-point shooting, and the
Hilltoppers were beating Drake at its own game while building a
76-58 lead with 8 minutes to go. They finished 14-of-28 from beyond
the arc, with Brazelton going 6-for-10.
Skeptics questioned how Drake, which had a 21-game winning
streak from Nov. 14 to Feb. 13, would hold up under the pressure of
such a high seed in its first NCAA appearance in 37 years.
For 32 minutes, not so well.
The Bulldogs trailed 74-56 before pulling themselves out of a
funk that began during a stretch in which they missed eight
consecutive 3-point shots and watched the Hilltoppers pull away to
a nine-point halftime lead.
Cox keyed Drake's comeback, capping a 30-14 run with a 3 that
made it 88-88 with 30 seconds to go. Josh Young also heated up at
the right time for the Missouri Valley Conference champions, making
three straight 3s to help the Bulldogs catch up and take a 96-92
lead in overtime.
Klayton Korver scored 21 and Young finished with 18, but they
combined with Drake's other big scorer, Leonard Houston, to go
11-of-35 on 3-pointers.
Emmenecker, the MVC player of the year, also struggled from the
field, going 0-for-10, although none of those shots was among the
42 3s that Drake took. The former walk-on went 11-of-12 from the
foul line and had 14 assists.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)