Sweet victory in Sacramento!

SACRAMENTO-- In a double overtime thriller for the ages, Derrick Byars scored 27 points, including 19 after the first half and Ted Skuchas scored 4 points in the second overtime to help Vanderbilt survive No. 3 seeded Washington State, 78-74. The win advanced Vanderbilt to the East Regional semi-finals in East Rutherford, N.J.

After Vanderbilt took a 73-71 lead in the second overtime, Shan Foster swiped the ball from a Cougar player and drove the length of the court for a slam dunk, putting Vanderbilt ahead by 4, 75-71. Vanderbilt turned the ball over with 1:22 remaining but WSU was unable to score and Alex Gordon was fouled by Derrick Lowe. Gordon made 1 of 2 free throws to put Vanderbilt ahead 76-71 with 50 seconds remaining.

The hard fighting Cougars would not quit. Daven Harmeling's 3-pointer pulled Washington State to within 2 at, 76-74 with 35 seconds remaining. Gordon was fouled with 29 seconds remaining but missed both free throws. As college basketball fans around the nation watched on television, Washington State could not score on their final possession and Gordon made an insurance fast break lay-up to advance Vanderbilt in the tournament.

"That was one of the best college basketball games I've even been involved in," said a happy Commodore head coach Kevin Stallings after the game. "I told our team to be ready for the most physical basketball game you've ever been in and that's the way it was; both teams were physical and tough," continued Stallings.

The Commodores trailed throughout most of the second half by as much as 10. After flirting with rallies twice in the second half, Vanderbilt finally was able to cut the Cougar lead to 5 on a 3-pointer by Byars with 11:24 remaining in regulation. Forty seconds later and after a WSU turnover, Byars struck again to bring the Commodores to within two, 51-49. One minute later it was Byars again from 3-point range to give Vanderbilt it's first lead since early in the first half, 52-51 with 9:42 remaining.

After several ties and lead changes, WSU regained a 59-57 lead with 2:57 remaining on free throws by Robbie Cowgill. A Shan Foster 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining put Vanderbilt back in front, 60-59. On that play Dan Cage scrambled to retrieve a loose ball after an initial miss by Foster and dished the big assist to Shan. Kyle Weaver's made 1 of 2 free throws with 46 seconds to tie the game for the sixth time.

In the final seconds of regulation Byars had a lay-up blocked by WSU's Ivory Clark and Harmeling missed from 3-point range to send the game into the first overtime.

Vanderbilt fell behind 62-60 early in the first overtime on free throws by the Cougars big man Aron Baynes. The Commodores regained a 64-62 lead on free throws by Cage. After a Cowgill jumper tied the score at 65, Byars scored from 3-point range again to give Vanderbilt a 67-64 lead with 2:22 left. Lowe's jumper pulled the Cougs to within 1 at 67-66 but a Byars' bucket put Vanderbilt back up by three, 69-66, with 58 seconds remaining. Low then struck again with a 3-point shot to tie the game at 69; it was the ninth tie of the game.

Washington State had a chance to win the game in the first overtime after Rochestie stole the inbound pass from Alex Gordon but Derrick Byars leaping block of a Rochestie shot gave the Commodores new life and extended the game to a second overtime.

Cougar head coach Tony Bennett commented that the loss would be tough on his team but that they would recover, "After that game our guys understand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In time it will hurt less. It was truly a hard-fought game. The first half was one of our best of the season. It stings right now but what an experience this tournament has been," said the first year head coach.

The Cougars were led in scoring by Low with 21. Cowgill and Baynes each contributed 14. Byars set a new Sacramento site tournament record for scoring. Other top scorers for Vanderbilt included Foster with 20, Gordon with 12 and Cage with 11. Skuchas scored his only points of the game in the second overtime, making 2 free throws to give Vanderbilt and early a 2 point lead and then scoring on a put back moments later to put Vanderbilt back up by 2 after WSU had tied the game at 71.

Vanderbilt improved to 22-11 and will face No. 2 seed Georgetown on Thursday in East Rutherford, N.J. Vanderbilt is now 4-0 all time in NCAA second round games and 2-0 in NCAA overtime games.

Washington State completes their season 26-8. The 26 wins tied the record for most wins ever in a season by the Cougars.


Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars reacts to a shot in the second half against Washington State during the second round of the NCAA East Regional basketball tournament at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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