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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 18, 2007

Vanderbilt coach amazed by Low

 •  Low's 'magical ride' ends with 78-74 loss

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO No college basketball player from Hawai'i has shined on the national stage that is March Madness quite like 'Iolani School graduate Derrick Low did this past week.

But Low, a 6-foot-2 junior guard for No. 13-ranked Washington State, did not just make his mark among fans back in the Islands; comments from his opponent in yesterday's NCAA tournament second round prove he is exemplary beyond Hawai'i standards.

"Derrick Low is an amazing player," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "People who don't watch game film of him may not fully appreciate how good he is, but the guy just cuts, and cuts, and cuts, and cuts, and then gets open, and then he knocks down the shot. He must be a player without lungs, because he just never stops. That's what makes him so hard to defend."

Stallings' high praise came in a post-game conference minutes after Low scored a team-high 21 points and added three assists, two rebounds and two steals in a pulsating 78-74 double-overtime loss at ARCO Arena.

He was 8 of 16 from the field, 2 for 2 from the free-throw line, 3 of 9 from 3-point range and played 48 of the 50 minutes, with only a short break midway through the first half.

Low scored 10 points in the first half, helping the Cougars take a 33-25 lead into the break. In the game's crucial late moments, he swished a jumper with 2 minutes remaining in the first overtime that closed Washington State to 67-66, drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 38.9 seconds left in that period to tie it at 69-69 and force a second OT, and then sank another mid-range jumper that tied it at 71-71 with 3:52 remaining in the final period.

Those first two shots immediately followed huge baskets by Commodores guard Derrick Byars, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, who finished with a game-high 27 points.

Byars, who is 6-7, was assigned to defend Low for much of the second half.

"When you have to guard a great player like Low, you have to stay with him," Byars said.

Stallings said he has become a big fan of Low.

"If we weren't playing against him, I would really enjoy watching him play," Stallings said. "But when we're going up against him, it gets old. We slowed him down a little bit in the second half, but then late in the game he just made big play after big play."

Low, a former three-time Advertiser State Player of the Year who was named to the Pac-10's All-Conference team this season, said Byars "definitely is a good player."

"It was fun to have him guard me," Low said.

Despite the loss and a constant barrage of media interviews, Low said the March Madness experience was one he won't soon forget.

"Sometimes it was overwhelming and I did get tired," Low said. "But this is big time, as big as it gets. It was good fun playing on this national stage. And I'm looking forward to next year, because we'll be back ..."

Reach Wes Nakama at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com.