Column: Foster refuses to lose

March 6, 2008

Click for More Coverage: Vanderbilt 86 Miss. State 85 (OT)

Shan Foster wouldn't let it happen. Not on Senior Night. Not when his teammates needed him the most. So with Vanderbilt's 18-game home win streak hanging in the balance, Foster took the game in his hands and willed the Commodores to an 86-85 win in overtime. By taking over the game, Foster put on one of the greatest shooting performances any of the 14,316 fans in attendance will ever see.

He made nine consecutive three-pointers in the second half and finished with a career-best 42 points, just two shy of the school record set by Tom Hagan at Mississippi State in 1969. His nine three-pointers were also a school record.

What may be most remarkable about his feat is the fact that 29 of his 42 points came from the 10:44 mark of the second half and on. Prior to his first three, Foster was 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and looked out of rhythm. In fact, he looked so far off that one of his three-point attempts hit off the side of the basket. Anyone who watched the game prior to his first three-pointer never would have thought in a million years that he would do what he did over the course of the rest of the game.

"Shan was just incredible tonight," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said. "I can't really put it into words. One night I think (Matt Freije) scored all but two of our points in a half and brought us back for a come-from-behind victory. That was pretty amazing, but not quite as amazing as this. This was just on another level. Lord have mercy, that was amazing."

After his first three-pointer went down with 10:44 to play, Foster looked like a completely different player and it didn't matter if his shots came from 20 feet, 30 feet or 35 feet. Even with multiple hands in his face on most every shot attempt, it was like the ball was set on autopilot toward the bottom of the net every time he released it.

Vanderbilt trailed by as many as eight in the second half, and Foster single-handedly kept the team in the game by scoring 21 of Vanderbilt's final 31 points. Even when the Commodores looked down and out trailing by five with 26.8 seconds to play a rainmaker three by Foster kept the hope alive. After Jamont Gordon missed the second of his two free throws on the ensuing possession it was Foster who sent the game into overtime by drilling another long-range bomb with 14.5 seconds to play.

"I think this is the first game that I hit nine threes and to hit nine in a row - that blows my mind," Foster said. "There's a big difference between hitting nine in a row in shooting practice with Red (Alex Gordon) when we challenge each other, and hitting nine in a row when the other team is trying everything in them to stop you from shooting the ball ... from 35 feet. That amazed me."

In overtime, it looked for a second like Foster was human again after missing a jumper. However, he responded with a thunderous alley-oop that cut Mississippi State's lead to one, 81-80, with 48 seconds to play. After a three-pointer by Mississippi State's Ben Hansbrough with 35 seconds left, Foster cut the Bulldogs' lead to one, 84-83, with yet another three-pointer.

After Hansbrough made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Bulldogs an 85-83 lead with 29 seconds to play, there was little doubt who would get the final shot. And for the ninth straight time, Foster delivered with a 30-foot three-pointer, which gave Vanderbilt an 86-85 win.

"I really did not want to lose my last game in Memorial Gym and I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that that didn't happen," Foster said. "My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and God took care of the rest. Some of those shots amazed me. I was deep on a lot of those. I put it up there and the Lord took care of the rest; that's the only way I can describe it."

Maybe in just as much awe of Foster's performance as anyone in the stands was Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury.

"There isn't a whole lot to say except this: (Shan) Foster beat us," he said. "You can't say anything else about it. It wasn't anything they did, absolutely nothing. He just jumped up and made shots. Give him credit. There is nothing we could have done. He made 30-footers with someone in his face."

Foster's performance is one myself and everyone in the gym will remember for a lifetime. Years from now, people will be talking about the game that Foster scored 42 and made an inconceivable nine straight three-pointers to beat Mississippi State. In fact, I think he just hit another one.



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