His job was to make both free throws, which would force Western Carolina to make a 3-pointer just to tie the game and send it to overtime.
“While I was standing on the line, I had to focus hard and block out all the noise around me,” the former Walton and Wheeler standout said. “I just let (the shots) go and said ‘Please go in.’”
Both free throws found the bottom of the net. Western Carolina’s desperation 3-point attempt did not.
The Terriers won 56-53 to claim the Southern Conference title and Cochran was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. But the most important thing is Wofford won the conference’s automatic bid into this week’s NCAA tournament.
The Terriers (20-12), which will be making their third tournament appearance in the last five years, is the No. 15 seed in the Midwest region and will open against No. 2 seed Michigan on Thursday in Milwaukee.
But Cochran and his teammates still have other goals to reach.
“We’re going to go back to the basics,” Cochran said. “We can’t be just happy to be here. We’re going to prepare and scout opponents and we plan to come into this tournament and make some noise.”
That’s exactly what he did in the conference tournament.
Wofford entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and Cochran was averaging 15.7 points, five rebounds and three assists for the season. He proceeded to average 20 points and six rebounds in wins over Citadel, Georgia Southern and Western Carolina. He saved his best game for last when he put up 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals against the Catamounts.
“It was exciting to get a personal award, but I’m more excited about punching our ticket into the dance,” Cochran said. “That’s what we’re really here for.
“(Winning Southern Conference) was pure excitement and pure elation. When that buzzer goes off and you’re the conference champs, there was nothing but excitement.”
Over the last few seasons, Cochran has done a lot of growing and maturing to become the player he is now.
It wasn’t long ago when he was a freshman on an upper classmen-laden squad. He had to learn then that there was more to basketball than shooting jump shots.
That’s what Cochran was primarily known for during his senior year with the Raiders.
He averaged 19.4 points during his only season with Walton in 2011, after playing his first three high school seasons at Wheeler where he helped the Wildcats win a state title in 2009.
Cochran made his college debut his freshman year when Wofford opened at Georgia.
Before stepping on the floor, he said Wofford coach Mike Young pulled him aside and stated that “you’re not a freshman anymore.”
The college game played at a different speed than Cochran was used to, but he said what his coach was trying to tell him is he needed to play like a complete player — not just a shooter — from the start. That first game Cochran scored only four points, but he had four assists and six rebounds, a sign that he could be more than just a scorer.
“With me, he used to shoot 1,000 shots in the morning,” Walton coach Joe Goydish said. “Now he’s found a way to be involved in all parts of the game and he still plays as hard as he played before.”