Jan. 22, 2014
Cooper's last second shot lifts BearcatsBy David Boyce | Box Score | Video of Cooper's game winning shot
MARYVILLE, Mo. - The night belonged to Northwest Missouri State senior point guard DeShaun Cooper.
The clock was ticking down to under five seconds. The Bearcats trailed by one. Cooper was one point off his career-high 31. Missouri Southern’s Lane Barlow was guarding Cooper closely.
Cooper, who used his quickness all game to drive to the basket, took one dribble in, stepped back one step and swished a 19-footer with three seconds left.
The amazingly clutch basket lifted Northwest to a heart-pumping, thrilling 79-78 victory over Southern Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena.
“It feels great, especially when you have your family (Bearcat fans) right behind you the whole step of the way,” said Cooper, who finished with a game-high 32 points. “When you go through the things we went through and you can come back and pull games out like that, you are just proud to be a Bearcat.”
The come-from-behind win lifted Northwest to 14-5 overall and 9-1 in the MIAA.
For much of the game, it appeared Southern was going to move into first play. The Lions led by double digits in both halves. But their failure to hang on caused them to drop to 13-3 and 7-2.
The game started decently for Northwest. The Bearcats scored the first four points. Southern scored the next seven. It looked like it was going to be a game in which the two teams traded runs.
The Bearcats grabbed a 10-9 lead on a three-pointer by Cooper. The Lions answered with a layup from Slim Magee, a 6-foot-11 center who weighs only 205 pounds.
Northwest waited a few possessions to respond. It allowed Southern to build a 19-10 lead.
The Bearcats spent the rest of the first half trying to catch up and they failed. Northwest trailed 42-32 at halftime and allowed Southern to make 55 percent of its shots from the field.
“We weren’t tough enough,” said senior center Dillon Starzl. “Coach questioned our toughness at halftime and I think that really got into us. We came out and kind of played well towards the end of the second half and showed that we can play with them.
“We matched their intensity and came out with a victory.”
Initially, the second half looked more of the same. Every time the Bearcats made a push, Southern had an answer. Northwest trailed 59-48 with 12:15 left.
A pessimist might have thought this wasn’t going to be the Bearcats night, end of story.
But this is a different breed of Bearcat. The story was far from finished. With 10 minutes left, Northwest closed to 61-55 on two free throws by Cooper.
“We kept getting it to six and I was thinking we need to get a stop or something,” Starzl said. “They kept pushing it back to 10 and then we finally got the crowd into it.”
A couple of minutes later, the Bearcats drew closer on two more free throws by Cooper, making it 63-59.
Two minutes later, Northwest was within one at 66-65 on a layup by Bryston Williams.
A minute after that, Northwest took its first lead since 10-9 on a layup by Cooper, making it 67-66 with 5:13 left in the game. The 1,945 fans were into it. A fantastic finish was inevitable regardless of the winner.
“We love our fan base,” said junior forward Grant Cozad. “They have believed in us during the 6-0 stretch we have had at home. We are glad they come out and support us. There is a lot of positive energy going around.”
Both teams made plays in the final five minutes. A three-pointer by Cooper gave Northwest a 75-73 lead with 2:28 left. Barlow responded with a three-point play that put Southern back up.
With 58 seconds left, Southern took a 78-77 lead on two free throws by Jordan Talbert.
Each team had a possession and then came Cooper’s heroics. Starzl grabbed a rebound with 10 seconds left, passed the ball to Cooper and Cooper finished with a beautiful, fade-away jumper with 3 seconds left.
“I first thought he (Coach Ben McCollum) was going to call timeout,” Cooper said. “I said, yes, he didn’t call timeout. When I saw him (Barlow) on his heels, I stepped back and hit the shot.”
A shot the Cooper will remember forever.
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