It Ended with a Whistle

The end of the world is rumored to be coming with merely a whimper.  Well, Thursday night an epic OVC basketball game ended with merely a whistle.

Torrance Rowe dribbled into a triple team, near the wing, jumped, suffered a partial block, and shoved the ball through contact.


Officials had to check to be sure the whistle beat the game clock expiring.

“Oh, I knew I got the shot off before,” said Rowe.  “It was just a matter of how much time were they going to put back on the clock.”

A minuscule 0.5 was added back and Rowe was credited with three free throws.  He  made one. He made two. And he missed the third on purpose.  Xavier Richards caught the miss, but stumbled, and was unable to chuck the fullcourt offering.

Tennessee Tech (15-7, 7-2) won 81-79 over Tennessee State (14-6, 5-2), with a questionable path to victory.  You can’t discredit either team.  Both teams did everything generally required of a winner.

“We just pulled through,” said Rowe.  “We kept fighting and doing what we had to do.”

The Rise and Fall of Hakeem Rogers

Tennessee Tech has been searching for a third scorer all season.  Ryan Martin and Rowe are every night guys.  Aleksa Jugovic is an exceptional shooter, but has duds mixed in with his flurries.

Thursday night Hakeem Rogers was wonderful.  He scored 23 points on 7-11 field goals.

“My teammates were just doing a good job finding me,” said Rogers.  “I was just making shots.  I was just trying to play hard.  It just turned over to the offense end.”

Tennessee Tech overcame a 13 point deficit, their fifth double-digit comeback of the season.  As you would expect a closer to do, Rowe scored four points in the final minute.  Aleksa Jugovic hit a monster triple.  With twenty seconds left Hakeem Rogers missed a pair, but also made a pair with ten remaining.

Unfortunately, the officials played an enormous part in the game.

When Keron Deshields drove at Rogers, from the arc he leaned in, hoping for a foul, maybe a make.  The clock halted at 5.5 seconds left.  The lean was met with a whistle.  That whistle felt contrived.  Deshields played exceptional, amassing 37 points (10-19 FG, 12-14 FT), but his shot attempt was hurried and barely worthy of a whistle.

He earned the call, but was it a foul?   Hakeem Rogers didn’t think so.  He stared in amazement, absorbing the impact of the whistle.

“I thought we were going in to overtime, to be honest,” said Rogers.  “I thought I just messed up right there. That was the big cost play, that I messed up on.  I take full responsibility for it, but T-Rowe did a good job faking and getting a man to jump into his body.”

His coach, Tennessee Tech Coach Steve Payne was steaming.

“The last play…he probably lost the game for us,” said Coach Payne.  “We were supposed to foul at halfcourt.  And he just didn’t do it.”

Rogers did not heartily challenge the shot, but he was close enough to give the officials a chance to call something.

“It is a dumb play,” said Coach Payne.  “He is a good player.  We need him in the game.  At the last timeout I put my arm around him and said, ‘Look, we wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t you.  We wouldn’t even have a chance to win this game.  It is a mistake.  We always say, it is next play.  Next play.”

Regardless Deshields hits all the money-makers, and he did even the score.

“I was ready for the moment because the hard work I put in day-in and day-out,” said Deshields.  “We came up short, but our team put in the hard work day in and day and day in and day out and we are going to be ready for this moment again, but next time the ball is going to bounce our way.”

Deshields set a career-high 5 days after scoring 33 at Belmont.  That career never saw another Sunday.  Tonight he scored 37 in another loss.

“The kid is a warrior,” said Tennessee State Head Coach Dana Ford.  “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the country.  He is a winner.  He has always won.  He is going to continue to win and we couldn’t be more happy to have him.”

At 79-79, overtime appeared imminent.  Rowe had won games at the buzzer before.  Remember Lipscomb?

Like always, Rowe took on the burden of the big moment.

“We were going to win,” said Coach Payne.  “He wasn’t passing that ball.  I wanted him to drive it, because I thought they owed us one.  I didn’t want him to pull up and shoot it.  He made the play, got them in the air.  Gave a good pump fake.”

The fake was good.  The arm of McCall got the ball.  Did McCall’s hand follow through and get part of Rowe’s hand?

Don’t know.  Doesn’t really matter now.

Tennessee Tech won and the great OVC game ended…in but a whistle.

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