Cougars' Dream Season Ends With 78-74 Double-OT Loss To Vanderbilt

March 17, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Vanderbilt and Washington State didn't have much NCAA tournament experience, yet neither club showed it in a double-overtime thriller.

And Derrick Byars made the plays to keep the Commodores in the spotlight for at least a few more days.

Byars scored 27 points, Shan Foster added 20 and Vanderbilt took control in the second overtime, beating Washington State 78-74 Saturday in a dynamite second-round game in the East Regional.

Byars hit five 3-pointers, and center Ted Skuchas opened the second OT with his first five points of the game for sixth-seeded Vanderbilt (22-11), which is headed to the round of 16 for the first time since 2004 - and just the fourth time in 20 seasons.

Derrick Low scored 20 points for the third-seeded Cougars (26-8), whose remarkable turnaround season ended in a game filled with outstanding defense and gutsy shots - but rookie coach Tony Bennett's team couldn't get one last break.

Byars was the SEC's player of the year, but he wasn't well known outside the Deep South until this weekend. He hit four 3-pointers in the second half and one more in the first overtime, then kept the Commodores alive with a stunning blocked shot late in the first OT - all while playing with four fouls since the final 3 minutes of regulation.

Foster, the star of Vandy's opening-round win over George Washington, shook off a slow start to score six points in the overtimes. He made the Commodores' final fast-break bucket when the 6-foot-11 Skuchas got the ball upcourt while delicately dancing on the sideline to avoid going out of bounds.

Both schools are neophytes in their sport's biggest showcase: Washington State had made the tournament just three previous times since 1941, while Vanderbilt had just eight prior tournament appearances in its history - none lasting longer than three games.

But the Cougars and Commodores' first-ever matchup was filled with the dramatic lead changes, tense theatrics and extraordinary performances expected in the best March games - all the way into extra time.

Fittingly for two teams that reached this point with defense, a blocked shot figured in the final moments of regulation and the first overtime. Ivory Clark rejected Byars' layup attempt from behind with 25 seconds left in the second half - but teammate Daven Harmeling then missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

And after Low tied it at 69 in the first overtime on a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, Taylor Rochestie stole Vanderbilt's late inbounds pass and drove the length of the court - but Byars came from behind to swat the guard's layup attempt.

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