TAMPA, Fla. - It was the shot of his life, and the shot of the tournament.
“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.
Brazelton finished with a career-high 33 points for Western Kentucky.
Cox had a career-high 29 points and 16 boards for Drake, which was making its first tournament appearance since 1971.
Rogers’ final shot was the 30th 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 for the game-winner.
The Hilltoppers reject the notion that they’re just another mid-major team trying to make a name for themselves in the NCAA tournament. They 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 Hilltoppers are in the tourney 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 literally 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.
A half-hour after Rogers hit the last shot and started a Hilltopper hoo-rah, the scene in the Drake locker room was eerily silent.
“We just fell one possession short,” Drake coach Keno Davis said. “But as a coach, you’ve got to be pretty proud of your team’s effort, especially today.”
Boxes of pizza sat on a table, getting colder by the moment. A few players looked at box scores, shaking their heads. Others just looked at the carpet, staring in silence, and assistant coaches hovered by the door looking just as shocked.
“A little disappointed,” Houston said. “Thinking about my regrets, things I could have done better. But it was a great year.”
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
Rogers sinks miracle shot
March 21: Ty Rogers thanks God for his game-winning shot to send Western Kentucky to the second round of the tournament.
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