Sunday, March 18, 2001

Stanford next for UC

Top seed escapes St. Joseph's 90-83

Enquirer news services

        SAN DIEGO — St. Joseph's may have given the University of Cincinnati confidence that it can beat top-seeded Stanford.

        Led by its outstanding guard tandem, the ninth-seeded Hawks took Stanford to the brink Saturday night before falling 90-83 in a second-round West Regional game.

        The Cardinal had their hearts in their throats in the closing minutes, afraid they might get bounced out in the second round for the third straight year.

        “I'm relieved,” coach Mike Montgomery said after catching his breath. “I feel a lot of emotion, because I thought we deserved to keep playing.”

        Stanford, though, will face another pair of outstanding guards, Cincinnati's Steve Logan and Kenny Satterfield, in the West Regional semifinals on Thursday in Anaheim. Fifth-seeded Cincinnati beat No. 13 Kent State 66-43.

        Hawks junior guard Marvin O'Connor tied his career high with 37 points, including five 3-point shots, before fouling out with 11.9 seconds left. He got a rousing ovation from the Cox Arena crowd — even the Stanford fans stood and cheered. St. Joe's backers chanted “Mar-vin! Mar-vin!”

        O'Connor's clutch 3-pointers helped bring the Hawks back from a 10-point deficit with 15:52 left, but they went 1:20 without scoring while Stanford padded its lead at the foul line, and they committed some crucial turnovers in the closing seconds.

        “I'd never heard of him before we drew St. Joseph's,” said Stanford All-American swingman Casey Jacobsen. “That was the most amazing performance of anyone I've guarded. I worked my butt off out there to try to be where he was.

        “When a guy gets that hot, it's hard to shut him off.”

        St. Joe's other guard, freshman Jameer Nelson, added 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as the Hawks finished 26-7.

        St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said it was “the hardest dressing room that I've ever been in. There was a lot of raw emotion in there. They were sad.

        “College basketball was served well tonight,” Martelli said. “That was a shining example of what college basketball is supposed to be.”

        O'Connor, who scored 18 points in the closing minute of a 91-90 loss to La Salle this season, said he thought the Cardinal might be tightening up as the Hawks made their run.

        “But down the stretch, they showed their maturity. They are a great team.”

        Stanford made all 10 of its free throws in the final 45.1 seconds, six by senior forward Jarron Collins and four by senior swingman Ryan Mendez, the nation's best free-throw shooter.

        Jason Collins scored 22 points and Jacobsen 21 for Stanford (30-2), which matched the school record for wins set by the 1997-98 team, which finished 30-5 after reaching the Final Four.

        It was after that Final Four — the school's first since winning the national title in 1942 — that its second-round problems began. First came an upset loss to Gonzaga, then a loss to North Carolina last year, when Stanford was the No. 1 seed in the South.

        “To get past it, it takes a huge burden off our chest,” Jacobsen said.

        Still, the Hawks of the Atlantic 10 Conference almost sent the three-time Pacific-10 champions home early again.

        O'Connor made three 3-pointers to key an 18-7 run that gave the Hawks their first lead of the game, 59-58. His 3 from the right corner with 10:42 to play pulled the Hawks within a point and sent the players on the bench leaping into the air and their fans into a frenzy.

        Alexandre Sazonov made a layup the next time down the floor for the 59-58 lead.

        O'Connor made two more shots, one a 3-pointer, and Damian Reid converted a three-point play for the Hawks' biggest lead, 67-62 with 8:25 left.

        But Stanford came back behind seven points from Jason Collins, and soon it was the Cardinal doing the celebrating after a steal and fast-break stuff by Julius Barnes gave them an 80-76 lead with 2:34 to play.

        As a timeout was called, Barnes' teammates mobbed him near halfcourt.

        “We fought, we battled, we lost a lead and we brought it back,” Stanford guard Michael McDonald said.

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