Top 10 Cougar Plays: #4

March 8: With 14.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Robbie Cowgill makes a layup and draws a foul from Jon Brockman.

Game Recap

Video (play starts at the 1:19 mark):

courtesy of Kapoleicoug on YouTube

“They had to scrap and fight for everything, that’s the way it’s been for Cougar basketball,” Bennett said. “It’s fitting.”

This was one of about four plays from this game I considered for the list. Three of those plays belong to Cowgill. This one helped send the game into overtime, and if he had made the free throw (he didn’t), the Cougs would have likely won in regulation.

In the first overtime, Cowgill again made a game-saving layup, this time on an offensive rebound to tie the game at 67. All I remember about that play was how wide open Cowgill was under the basket. Certainly in the right place at the right time.

Then, in the second overtime, Cowgill made the dagger, a mid-range jumper from the side that gave the Cougs a 73-70 lead – the same advantage the Cougars would hold at the end of the game.

The other play I considered was either one of Taylor Rochestie’s back-to-back threes that nullified two Husky leads of the same margin. Rochestie and Cowgill carried the WSU offense down the stretch, scoring 14 of the Cougars’ last 20 points. A fellow member of the crowd anointed Cowgill as “Big Shot Rob”, which couldn’t have been more true on Senior Night (with apologies to Robert Horry, who already owns the nickname).

But back to the #4 play. There was something that didn’t feel right about this game. Going in, and waiting for hours in line, there was a sort of relaxed confidence that you usually don’t see from Cougar fans. It was destiny – there was no possible way that Low, Cowgill, and Weaver could end their careers at Friel Court on a loss. And as for the Huskies, who had lost six straight to us, what chance did they have? Remember, the last game at Friel Court in which the huskies played was a 75-47 slaughterfest that ended with Ryan Appleby in tears on the bench.

But all hopes of another blowout were quickly dashed by a slow start from the senior day starters (Cross, Low, Weaver, Cowgill, Henry) and a 7-2 Washington run to open the game. The huskies hung around until a 12-4 run by the Cougars resulted in a 30-26 halftime advantage. Shots were falling for Wazzu, and the confidence was back.

…Until the huskies clawed their way back in. Twice. The Cougs held two advantages in this game that they should have run away with. A 37-32 lead with 16:26 lead got trumped by Quincy Pondexter and three straight husky baskets. Then, a 48-42 lead with 6:18 left (and possession of the ball), was canceled out by Husky free throws and one of the more egregiously awful stretches of officiating this season. The Huskies went on a 10-4 run, with eight of those points coming from the charity stripe.

And then, when Quincy Pondexter dunked the ball with 1:55 remaining, all hope seemed lost. The energy was sucked out of Beasley, and it looked like the bad guys were really going to win this one. There were about four times this game where I hung my head with the prospect of this game being a loss. It just couldn’t turn out that way. It wasn’t supposed to play out like that – but it was.

So who would step up? Weaver was the best player on the team, so he might. Low was the best shooter, so maybe he could drain a clutch 3 or to. Of course when it comes to clutchiness (fake ed. note: not a real word), no one tops Taylor Rochesite, so surely he would come through.

Nope. It was the other senior of the Big Three. It was Cowgill. And when that layup went through the net with 14.4 left, Beasley was one of the loudest places I had ever heard. Hope was restored. For the first time in about 15 minutes of basketball, I went from fearing a loss to believing we would actually win. The only thing that could have topped Robbie’s shot would have been a buzzer beater, which Kyle Weaver almost made when he stole the ball and raced down the court with seconds remaining. Of course, he got caught in that gray area with not enough time to get the layup, and not enough time to pull up for a jumper. So his runner bounced harmlessly off the glass. If he had made that, there’s your #1 play for the year.

Cowgill doesn’t get enough credit. Especially for his defense, which is a big reason why the Cougs have 7 straight wins over the Dawgs. Without him, Jon Brockman would almost certainly have led UW to a victory in one of those games. And on offense, it was always Cowgill that drained those mid-range jumpers, a lost art in today’s drive-or-shoot-the-three world of college basketball. Forrest is a similarly skilled player and a good replacement for next year, but Robbie was one of a kind.

So if you see Cowgill, thank him. Otherwise this guy might have been able to actually win a game against the Cougs in his career:

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The video above reminded me of one play I left off the Top Plays list that should have been included. So let me add it as #5a: Taylor Rochestie hits a halfcourt shot at the buzzer in the first half against UCLA. (play at the :54 second mark of the YouTube video).

The Triforce

Deadspin, one of my favorite sports blogs, has been serving up tournament game previews all week, and their Washington State vs. Winthrop preview is a sample of their knowledgeable writing and the sometimes smart-aleck attitude that make Deadspin a good read. It is also easy to tell that actual time and research went into discussing the tournament teams; too often an ESPN discussion of the tourney bracket goes something like this:

Analyst A: I like Washington State because of Derrick Low and the fact that they are a very tough style of basketball to play against.

Analyst B: Good point; but I love Notre Dame to make the Sweet 16 because of Luke Harangody. I think they’ll get it done.

This exchange is followed by no mention of a Top-25 Washington State team or its players for the next 55 minutes. In fact, if you asked Digger Phelps to name the Cougars’ starting five I guarantee you he couldn’t do it off the top of his head.

So, out of the backlash against ESPN and their strange practice of force-feeding the nation the same sports discussion topics over and over again comes Deadspin. Brian Tesch writes the Cougar summary; I have no idea if he is connected to WSU or is just an outsider looking in. Either way, he has coined the nickname “The Triforce” for Robbie Cowgill, Derrick Low, and Kyle Weaver. This is an absolutely awesome idea.

So why am I angry?

Well, two reasons. One, I didn’t come up with it. Two, we only get to use it for at the most a couple more weeks, and then Robbie, Derrick and Kyle ride off into the sunset. If only we had the chance to give this nickname the one or two good years it deserved. I still plan on using it beyond the tournament, however, and you should too. It’s just that it won’t get the recognition it should now that it’s been discovered too late.