Next season, Cougars are Rochestie’s team

  • By Todd Milles The News Tribune
  • Thursday, March 27, 2008 11:24pm
  • SportsSports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Senior Robbie Cowgill fouled out, and was consoled immediately on the bench. In the final 90 seconds, out went Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, a move made by Washington State coach Tony Bennett to give his key seniors one final moment in the spotlight.

But junior Taylor Rochestie, the point guard, stayed on the floor the rest of the way.

No. 1 North Carolina put an end to a remarkable WSU season with a 68-47 victory on Thursday in the East Regional semifinals of the NCAA men’s tournament at Bobcats Arena.

Though it may be difficult to leave the Cougars’ 26-9 performance in 2007-08 behind, all signs point to this being Rochestie’s team to lead next season.

“I wouldn’t want any other point guard on my team than Taylor,” WSU junior forward Daven Harmeling said. “I mean that. I’ve seen some good ones in the (Pacific-10 Conference), and (Ty) Lawson (of North Carolina). Taylor’s my guy. I wouldn’t want anyone else taking the ball up the court and making passes. He’s as good as anyone.”

Rochestie, the 6-foot-1 guard from Santa Barbara, Calif., finished seventh in the country in assist-to-turnover ration (2.89), and in just five of WSU’s 35 games did he have more turnovers than assists.

Against Winthrop, Rochestie set an NCAA record for first- and second-round tournament games with 10 assists in the Cougars’ 71-40 victory.

But Rochestie, who will be expected to pick up more of the scoring load next season, has qualities beyond the numbers that make him a favorite of teammates and coach Tony Bennett.

“He does a good job of saying the right things when they need to be said,” said redshirting freshman Abe Lodwick, who should contend for a starting position next season at shooting guard. “He’s a magnet for guys.”

After the game, Rochestie sat alone in a back corner of the WSU locker room, his cap tilted backward. Thursday was an emotional ending for him as he watched the seniors play their final game.

“(Next season) is something hard to even think about,” Rochestie said. “I leaned over to Daven and (Aron) Baynes (both juniors) and said, ‘Take the time you need to take, and then let’s get back after it.’ This is something special.

“I know I’ll be getting after it (today), to be honest. The best way to vent my frustration is to be on the basketball court, or be in the weight room. That is the kind of person I am, to just get back after it right away.”

It was just two seasons ago when Rochestie was coming off season-ending knee surgery at Tulane. He ultimately decided to transfer to WSU, the only school that gave him a chance to play. This season, he became the full-time point guard.

Now, the torch of leadership has officially been passed to him.

“Taylor is going to have to step his game up a little bit,” Weaver said. “I hope I’m around in the summer to beat up on him.”

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