Foster still haunted by last year's miss

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Shan Foster has drained almost 700 field goals in his illustrious four-year career at Vanderbilt, including 362 3-pointers. He's now the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,984 career points, and is this year's SEC Player of the Year. But there's one missed shot that still haunts him.

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Shan Foster has drained almost 700 field goals in his illustrious four-year career at Vanderbilt, including 362 3-pointers. He's now the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,984 career points, and is this year's SEC Player of the Year.

But there's one missed shot that still haunts him.

In last year's SEC Tournament, the Commodores came to the Georgia Dome with a No. 2 seed, a Thursday bye, and one of their best chances in years to advance to the finals-- but would fail even to advance past the quarterfinal round.

On Friday afternoon Vanderbilt was matched up with a lower seeded Arkansas team, a team that was fighting to save the job of embattled coach Stan Heath. The Commodores, led by Foster (then a junior) and 2007 SEC Player of the Year Derrick Byars, were heavy favorites.

All Vandy fans remember what happened. An inspired Razorback team rallied from an 8-point deficit to take a 72-71 lead in the final 10 seconds, and Vanderbilt had the ball with a chance to win on one final shot. The ball wound up in the hands of Foster, who had a clear look at the basket from the left corner.

The ball clanked high off the rim, and the Commodores' high hopes were dashed.

A distraught Foster collapsed on the court afterwards. In the locker room afterwards, he could not bring himself to talk to reporters. His teammates tried to console him, but he was unable to do anything besides bury his face inside his game jersey.

Flash forward to 2008. Thursday's win over Auburn sets up another Friday afternoon Vanderbilt-Arkansas matchup-- it's even in the same 3:15 pm ET time slot.

After Thursday's win, Foster said that that one missed shot had haunted him throughout the off-season.

"Any time you have an opportunity to put a team away in the last second... that's the kind of thing you dream about when you think about playing ball," he said.

"I was unable to make that shot. I took the thought of that shot with me all through my summer workouts. I used it to motivate me to keep improving my shot."

Whatever his motivation has been, Foster is on a shooting tear in the Commodores' last 11 games, over which the Commodores have gone 9-2. True to form Thursday, he ignited for 26 points on a 9-of-14 shooting day that included six long 3-pointers.

Friday just might bring a chance at redemption-- not just for Foster, but Vanderbilt. One of those two losses down Vandy's stretch run came to Arkansas, March 1 in Fayetteville.

Not to mention that the Hawgs have been a thorn in Vanderbilt's and Kevin Stallings' side, winning seven of the schools' last eight meetings. Back in 2000, some might recall, the Razorbacks came from nowhere to win four games in the SEC Tournament and steal an NCAA Tournament bid that almost certainly would have gone to Vandy.

The history obviously wasn't lost on the Commodores in the wake of Thursday's first-round win over Auburn. In their locker room afterwards, a single word had been inscribed on the team whiteboard.

"Payback."


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