To Kyle, Derrick & Robbie: Thanks for ride

YEP, IT'S A BUMMER to see the dream die. It was frustrating that the game was mostly a stinker for the final 28 minutes. In the end, though, this wasn't about North Carolina's 68-47 Sweet 16 win over ice-cold Washington State in Charlotte. It was the day we had to say goodbye to Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill.

Whether it would be in victory or defeat, we knew this day was coming sooner than later.

The No. 1-rated Tar Heels just delivered the inevitable a little faster than we wanted.

Kyle, Derrick and Robbie.

They don't even need last names anymore. Their images, their spirit, their commitment to excellence – it's all seared into the minds of the Cougar Nation.

The renaissance they led. The excitement they generated. None of us will ever forget them.


DERRICK LOW: 14 POINTS VS. 'HEELS.

Two straight trips to the Big Dance. Two straight seasons of 26 wins.

Four years of turning a deaf ear to the nay sayers. Four years of belief in Bennett Ball.

It was a great ride that started in the most improbable way, with Dick Bennett coming out of retirement to coach in a part of the country foreign to him, for a program lower than low.

It was so improbable, that Low committed verbally to play for the Cougs without even taking a visit to Pullman.

It was so improbable that Bennett, son Tony and the rest of the dedicated staff put together a recruiting class – Low, Weaver, Cowgill, Chris Henry, Daven Harmeling and Josh Akognon – that had virtually no other major conference scholarship offers.

Akognon wanted a faster tempo so transferred to Fullerton. Henry was done in by injuries but has remained a stellar practice presence – and, little known to most, he gave up his scholarship for this season so the Cougs could offer one to Charlie Enquist. Harmeling injured his shoulder in the opening game of 2005-06 and redshirted that season, otherwise we'd be saying farewell to him, too. The other senior, on this team, Jeremy Cross transferred in from UPS two-plus years ago, and proved a tenacious defender in practice.

Kyle, Derrick and Robbie, however, have been four-year fixtures.

Weaver and Low each scored more than 1,000 points in their careers. And Cowgill started a record number of consecutive games while earning Pac-10 All-Academic honors every year along the way.


ROBBIE COWGILL AND TY LAWSON BATTLE FOR LOOSE BALL.

What we'll remember most, though, are the moments.

Like Low's uncanny long-range shooting in last season's two NCAA Tourney games.

Like Weaver's steal, drive to the hoop for the winning basket, and then another steal to seal the deal at USC in the opening weekend of last season's Pac-10 schedule.

Like Cowgill's all-everything performance at Baylor earlier this season to bring the Cougs back from a 14-point deficit and eventual victory.

Like the catharis over Gonzaga a year ago, in front of an amped Friel crowd, that truly lit the fire of this renaissance.

Like the seven straight wins over the Huskies.

Like the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum filled to the brim, rocking and rolling like it did in the days of Mark Hendrickson, Craig Ehlo and Don Collins.

Just like that, four years have gone by. Just like that, an unlikely threesome –- one from Wisconsin, one from Hawaii, one from Texas -– came together in the rolling hills of the Palouse to chase a dream.

And chase they did.

They don't need last names any more.

Kyle, Derrick and Robbie.

Thanks for the memories, guys. We'll never forget you or the pride you brought to every one of us who bleeds crimson.


KYLE WEAVER FENDS OFF TYLER HANSBROUGH.

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