With the 2013 NCAA tournament getting underway, one of the biggest assets to any team is a key player who can be counted on in the clutch. March Madness invariably features a wealth of games that come down to the final seconds, and the players who can come through in those make-or-break situations can save the season for their teams.
One star who has already dished out his share of late-game heroics is UCLA’s Larry Drew II. The star distributor has made his shots count with the game on the line, hitting multiple game-winning buckets in his first season as a Bruin.
Here is a closer look at Drew and the rest of a sweet 16 of Big Dance players who have done their best work in the final moments of games.
Rayshawn Goins is the biggest star on James Madison’s roster, but the Dukes wouldn’t be in the NCAA tournament if it weren’t for point guard Devon Moore.
In the Colonial tournament semifinal against Delaware, Moore drew a foul with four seconds left and the Dukes trailing by a point.
The senior—a .747 shooter from the line—stroked both free throws, and JMU lived to fight another day.
The Blue Hens weren’t the only team to fall on Moore’s clutch foul shooting, which also did in William and Mary in the regular-season finale.
Kelly Olynyk’s breakout season has gotten all the attention for Gonzaga, but teammate Kevin Pangos is the man with the ball in his hands at the end of games.
The sophomore point guard is an 81.6 percent foul shooter, a fact Oklahoma State learned to its chagrin when he drained three key free throws to close out a one-point win in Stillwater.
Pangos made an even bigger impression on Washington State, which nearly upset its high-powered neighbor when the Zags visited Pullman in December.
After a DaVonte Lacy layup tied the game in the waning seconds, Pangos drove the length of the floor to lay in the game-winner and keep the Bulldogs’ 9-0 start intact.
Freshmen aren’t supposed to be go-to guys under pressure. Ivy League Freshman of the Year Siyani Chambers has made himself an exception for a Harvard team that played four consecutive one-possession games in conference play.
Chambers’ layup with five seconds on the clock saved the first of those games, forcing OT (and a Crimson win) against Dartmouth. The next time out, he drained a pair of late free throws to ice a home win over archrival Yale.
Chambers had opened fans' eyes even earlier in the season when his jumper turned a one-point Boston University lead into a Harvard win with four seconds on the clock.
Butler has specialized in clutch play, earning three of its biggest wins of the year on last-second scores. Of the Bulldogs’ assorted heroes, none is more dangerous with the game on the line than Rotnei Clarke.
The senior marksman can close out a win with his .886 free-throw shooting or save one from beyond the arc, where he hits 41.2 percent of his tries.
Of his 108 treys on the year, none was bigger than the improbable buzzer-beater he hit over a Marquette double-team to earn Butler’s first win at the Maui Invitational.
The most dangerous thing about 13th-seeded South Dakota State is that Wooden Award finalist Nate Wolters doesn’t have to win games by himself.
The Jackrabbits have a healthy supply of three-point shooters for Wolters to set up, and the one who’s made his mark as a closer is Chad White.
White, a 6’6” junior, turned a two-point deficit into a one-point SDSU win over Marshall by nailing a trey with three seconds remaining.
Twelve days later, White cut his encore even closer, hitting the game-winning three-ball with two seconds on the clock to beat North Dakota, 71-70.
Notre Dame’s unforgettable five-overtime duel with Louisville provided a season’s worth of clutch opportunities in one night. Most of it, however, would never have happened had it not been for Irish guard Jerian Grant.
With Notre Dame trailing by eight at the end of regulation, Grant knocked down three three-pointers in half a minute.
He capped the scoring surge with an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game with 16 seconds remaining, sending it to the first of many extra sessions.
When the game is on the line, Marshall Henderson puts his money where his mouth is. Considering just how big a mouth he’s had this season, that’s saying something.
The junior scoring machine shoots .880 from the charity stripe, as he showed with a pair of free throws that turned a tied game with seven seconds left into a victory over Auburn (and a chance to celebrate in his own distinctive style).
Henderson is also an unstoppable three-point shooter, and it was his long-range game that stymied Vanderbilt when he drilled a buzzer-beater to take the Commodores to overtime (and an eventual Ole Miss win) in Nashville.
Illinois’ electrifying season-opening winning streak almost stalled after its Maui Invitational triumph. The 6-0 Illini needed a Tyler Griffey three-pointer with four seconds on the clock to escape a home upset at the hands of lowly Gardner-Webb.
Griffey’s other game-winning bucket came against a slightly higher-profile foe.
With Illinois and then-No. 1 Indiana tied at 72 and just one second remaining, Griffey came open under the basket for an uncontested layup to give the Illini their biggest win of the year.
Only three players in the country shot a better percentage from the free-throw line than Phil Forte’s .913. Small wonder, then, that the often-overshadowed Oklahoma State freshman has played a key role at the end of close games for the Cowboys.
In OK State’s second game of the year, Akron held a one-point lead in overtime when Forte was fouled shooting a three-pointer. He nailed all three free throws to secure the win.
Baylor made a similar mistake, fouling Forte in a tie game with three seconds left in what turned out to be a 64-62 conference tournament win for the Cowboys.
Forte’s biggest shot of the year actually came in a losing cause against Kansas, when his three-pointer sent the game to a second overtime (where the Jayhawks would eventually triumph).
Ordinarily, if the game is on the line, an opposing coach is glad to see a 7.6 point-per-game scorer take the crucial shot. Unless, of course, it’s Larry Drew II.
Drew averted an inexplicable upset by UC-Irvine in the season’s second game, saving UCLA with a layup in the final seconds of overtime.
He managed a much tougher game-winner in conference play, burying a fadeaway jump shot over 6’9” Shawn Kemp Jr. to stun Washington.
The senior knows when to pass the ball in crunch time, too: His assist set up Shabazz Muhammad’s decisive trey in an overtime win over Missouri.
Very few players in the field of 68 boast the big-game experience of Matthew Dellavedova, who’s started in two NCAA tournaments and the London Olympics (for his native Australia).
Little wonder, then, that he has the confidence to knock down shots when his team has to have them.
The Gaels dodged an upset that would likely have knocked them out of the field of 68 when Dellavedova’s three-pointer forced overtime in their WCC tourney clash with San Diego.
The senior star also had one of the year’s best half-court shots, splitting a BYU double-team to beat the buzzer in Provo for a one-point St. Mary’s win.
Wisconsin has its share of three-point threats—headlined by freshman Sam Dekker—but Traevon Jackson and his .288 long-range accuracy rank pretty far down on the list. Give him a good look at the wrong time, though, and you’ll pay the price.
Jackson came open in transition in a tie game at Penn State, and his buzzer-beating three-ball found the bottom of the net to avert a devastating upset.
He also beat the shot clock and the game clock (by four seconds in the latter case) to stun Minnesota in the Badgers’ 45-44 win in Madison.
Villanova pulled off its share of last-second wins in Big East play, but in the nonconference schedule, Tyreek Duren gave the Wildcats a taste of their own medicine.
The Explorers junior forced overtime with a long three-pointer in the final seconds, then put his team on top to stay with a layup with 18 seconds left in the extra session.
Duren, who averaged 15 points a game on the year, wasn’t done pulling La Salle back from the brink of disaster. Two weeks later against Northeastern, he beat the buzzer again with a tiebreaking jump shot in a 66-64 victory.
It’s always a risk having a .524 free-throw shooter on the floor in crunch time. Rick Pitino has learned that Chane Behanan is worth that risk.
The sophomore PF has dominated on defense in the final seconds, starting with a close-out on Illinois State sniper Tyler Brown to contest what would have been a game-tying trey.
Behanan also capped Louisville’s comeback against Kentucky by intercepting a Wildcat pass to set up his own clinching dunk.
Even in a loss in the five-overtime epic against Notre Dame, Behanan saved the game twice, blocking Eric Atkins’ shot at the end of the second OT and powering in the tying basket at the end of the third.
For sheer degree of difficulty, no clutch shot this season has touched the one Ben Brust hit against the Michigan Wolverines.
With three seconds left and Wisconsin down three, Brust barely had time to cross half-court before launching what proved to be the game-saving buzzer-beater.
Brust then doubled down in overtime of the same game, burying another trey in the final minute of the extra session to give his Badgers a 65-62 win over what was then the third-ranked team in the country.
Arizona opened the season on a 14-game winning streak, and Mark Lyons scored crucial last-second points in four of those victories. Even more striking, three of the Lyons’ game-saving plays came in three consecutive contests.
Against San Diego State and Colorado, Lyons gave the Wildcats the lead and a tie, respectively, by hitting pairs of free throws in the last 11 seconds. Arizona would go on to win the latter game in OT.
The next time out against Utah, Lyons' foul shooting put Arizona ahead by three, forcing a near-miss from the Utes at the buzzer.
Lyons had already secured Arizona’s biggest win of the year by powering home a contested runner that turned a one-point Florida lead into a Wildcat win in Tucson.
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