January 17th: Baynes. Open. For three.
At one point, I know video existed of this play. However, I'm afraid the YouTube Gods have frowned on us now that the season is over. Either that, or I just can't find it.
Here's the KXLY recap of the game, which is tragically without the magic of Aron Baynes:
If you didn't see it, here's how Aron Baynes, all 6'10", 250 pounds of him, became the Cougars' most accurate three-point shooter (percentage-wise) last season:
With time winding down in the shot clock, and just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Taylor Rochestie hoisted up a three that missed badly. The ball bounced off the backboard and all the way out to Aron Baynes standing at the top of the arc. It was unclear if it touched rim. Baynes thought the shot clock was about to expire. It wasn't. The Oregon clock-keeper had reset it, but Baynes hoisted up a three-point jumper anyway. Swish.
The rest is history.
The shot almost didn't count; it took a lengthy officials' conference at midcourt to decide a number of things. Including whether or not the shot should count, whether the shot clock had expired, whether the reset was wrong, how many seconds should be left on the clock, etc., etc. Much booing ensued out of the Pit Crew, but our hero emerged victorious. Aron Baynes just hit a three-pointer to give the Cougars a 48-35 lead with 7:01 remaining. It was the back-breaker for an already struggling Ducks' team, who earlier saw their coach ejected for the first time in his twelve Pac-10 seasons.
It's debatable who I am going to miss more this next season: Baynes or Rochestie. The steady hand and leadership of Taylor kept our team in games this past year, and his penchant for hitting game-winners will certainly be missed (for instance: if Klay Thompson gets double-teamed next year, who else would you trust to hit a three for the win? Anyone?). Taylor was the heart and soul of our team last year. Still, I feel he had a fitting ending. He left Friel Court a matter of seconds after the biggest shot of his career. I still can't believe it happened. It was a perfect end to his time at WSU.
Baynes, on the other hand, was the consistent force, the motor that powered the Cougar train for the last three seasons. The power and athleticism were often taken for granted. Tony Bennett's biggest gripe with the officials last year was that Baynes never got credit for all the times he was shoved under the basket. Beat up in the post because he had the size and strength that forced his opponents to bend the rules and drive him out of the lane. Still, Baynes kept coming. Jump hook after jump hook he was our most consistent scorer. He netted a whopping 1.59 points per shot last year. That's efficiency.
He was also one of our most fiery competitors. Everyone has their favorite Aron Baynes moment. The three takes that place for some, for others it was the posterization of Jon Brockman on the Huskies' home floor. Personally, I liked the game against a lowly mid-major two years ago where Baynes dunked on an opposing player that had been giving him some grief for the better part of the game. Baynes dropped the ball on his chest, said something, and the technical foul was called. I know, not the most wholesome play, but still awesome. Baynes is one of the players that the home fans love and the opponents love to hate. As the traditional big man role continues to fade away in college basketball, we won't see many more players like Aron Baynes. It's a shame.
But let's not kid ourselves. I think we all know which Baynes' play stands alone as our favorite:
[hat tip: WSUCougarHoops on YouTube]
Remember kids, that's James Harden, a 2009 lottery pick, that he's stealing the pass from.
And finally, a quick poll, because I'm interested to see what you think:
Which 2008-09 Cougar basketball player will you miss the most?
Baynes (47 votes)
Rochestie (23 votes)
70 total votes