Rogers’ buzzer beater gives Western Kentucky 101-99 OT victory over Drake in NCAAs
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 winner.
“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 said.
“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.
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