He missed a free throw. Yes, that was Washington State University senior men's hoop guard Taylor Rochestie – a 90% free throw shooter – missing a free throw that could have iced the game for the Cougars in regulation. But, in overtime, there was Rochestie with the ball in his hands again as the clock ticked down the seconds left in the game – and possibly on the Cougars' post-season chances – when he launched a three-pointer from somewhere north of Colfax. The resulting swish of the twine with 2.3 seconds left in the game, gave Wazzu a thrilling 51-49 overtime victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman and Rochestie both eternal relief and legendary status as the senior won it for the Cougars on Senior Day. With the win, the Cougars significantly enhance their post-season chances as they improve to 16-13 overall and 8-9 in Pac-10 play
Rochestie's final three points were not enough to get him into double digits – that is an example of how poor of a shooting day he was having – but his nine points were all crucial as were the 17 points from leading scorer, freshman Klay Thompson and 11 more from senior center Aron Baynes.
The Cougars began the game in a whirlwind of emotion on Senior Day with former head coach Dick Bennett, senior families and other Wazzu athletic notables such as Jack Thompson and Jason Gesser in attendance. Head coach Tony Bennett even cast aside his usual tie-less game attire tradition and donned a crimson tie for the momentous occasion. Predictably with all the pomp, the Cougars came out sluggish and Arizona State took an 11-7 lead after the first six minutes of play. The Cougars stayed within range of the Sun Devils in the first half, but could never get over the hump and into the lead. Consequently, ASU took a 23-20 lead going into the locker room.
Thompson immediately tied the game by hitting his first shot of the half – a three pointer from the corner – and the vaunted Wazzu defense was able to hold Arizona State without a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half – highlighted by Baynes' rejection of an attempted dunk by the Devils' Ty Abbott. Yet, despite that show of defensive prowess, the Cougars were only able to score nine points during the time span and only held a slim 29-25 lead after Baynes' block. Thompson scored seven of the Cougars' next nine points but Wazzu was only able to build a six-point lead with 5:309 left in the game. Within 90 seconds, ASU hit two treys and just like that, it was a tie ball game. Wazzu again built their lead out to four points at 42-38 with 2:41 left and looked like they were on the verge of winning the game with a 43-40 lead and Rochestie on the line for a none-and-one with 15 seconds left in the game.
Rochestie uncharacteristically missed the front end and ASU's James Harden was fouled by freshman Marcus Capers as he attempted a potential game-tying three-point shot. Harden sunk all three freebies and when Rochestie's last-second heave in regulation was off, the two teams went into overtime.
Sun Devil guard Derek Glasser made a three-point shot to open the scoring for ASU but Harden fouled out with 3:26 remaining in the overtime and the Sun Devils could only muster three more points the rest of the way. Those three points, however, came on a running three-ball from Glasser that put ASU up 49-48 with 1:29 remaining in the game.
Rochestie missed a floater in the lane with 51 seconds remaining but after stopping ASU on their ensuing possession and getting the ball back, Rochestie hit his memorable trey and gave the Cougars' post-season chances a gigantic boost.
Thompson hit three treys in the game and set a new Wazzu freshman record for three-pointers, with 65 for his career and Bennett with the victory, clinches his third consecutive non-losing season and is undefeated against the Sun Devils at 6-0 in his head coaching career.
Wazzu's next game is against Washington at 2:30pm on Saturday, March 7 in Seattle.
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