It's trivia time, and I'm thinking of a powerful forward.
A major recruit, he grew up in the East Bay and played for Jason Kidd's high school alma mater. He was too often missing because of injury – the 2001 Elite Eight against Maryland his most glaring absence – but he compiled many highlight-worthy efforts along the way.
"Justin Davis, with authority!"
So went Steve Frost into his Maples Pavilion public address microphone, following one of the 6-foot-8 standout's many two-handed flushes.
This week eight years ago, the junior forward's career-best 24 points emboldened the Cardinal to rebound from its first-half funk against another talented group of Zags. In front of over 15,000 fans at the Oakland Coliseum for the Pete Newell Challenge, Gonzaga built a nine-point halftime lead into a 49-37 edge with 15:23 to play. Stanford looked doomed.
But the Cardinal, who improved to 8-3 with the W, shot 64 percent from the floor in the second half, wearing out a Gonzaga squad that lacked injured Rony Turiaf for all but four minutes of the game. The outcome became a painfully familiar one for the Bulldogs, who three-plus years later – on the same Oakland Arena court – suffered one of the all-time NCAA tournament meltdowns, waterworks and all. In 2003, Stanford would again best the Zags in the same Newell Challenge setting.
The trio of disappointments for Gonzaga began as the Cardinal embarked on a 36-14 second-half run. Three-pointers courtesy of Josh Childress (18 points) and Julius Barnes combined with fine play from reserves Dan Grunfeld and Joe Kirchofer helped Stanford score on 16 of 18 possessions during the surge. All that was missing was Gus Johnson calling the action.
Stanford went ahead on the force of a 14-0 run and never looked back against the Zags, who finished the previous regular season ranked No. 6 nationally. Blake Stepp missed all seven of his three-point attempts for a team playing its fourth tournament in a month. The Cardinal held Gonzaga to just 4-of-23 shooting from three-point range.
Davis attempted 13 shots from the field, making nine. The efforts were a combination of inside attempts and turnaround jumpers. The latter was a new weapon he had begun perfecting during this year, his fourth-year junior season. He added three assists and an equal number of steals, and had previously posted a double-double (21 points, 16 rebounds) a week earlier against UNLV.
"Coming off a good game, your confidence rises," explained Davis, an alumnus of Alameda's St. Joseph's High School.
The victory set the stage for a surprising season for Stanford. Expected to falter after the departures of Curtis Borchardt and Casey Jacobsen to the NBA, the Card went 24-9 and won an NCAA tournament game for the ninth straight season. The campaign featured an upset of top-ranked Arizona a little over a month later, while Davis keyed a 26-0 record/No. 1 ranking to start 2003-04.
In the meantime, Davis enjoyed one of his all-time memorable days at Stanford. After the game, he donned his Jerry Rice Raiders jersey to celebrate the Silver and Black's victory next door at the Oakland Coliseum over Kansas City. "It's a special day," he beamed.
December 29, 2007: Stanford 55, Fresno State 48
How many times did a Mike Montgomery-led team peak in the early season, only to end on a sour note? Before breaking an eight-year drought without a Sweet 16 appearance, the 2007-08 Cardinal spent much of its non-conference slate looking quite ordinary.
Trent Johnson's Stanford club nonetheless improved to 11-1 in its final tune-up for Pac-10 play, though each of the victories came against unranked foes. The Bulldogs more than held their own against the hosts, limiting Stanford to 40 percent shooting from the floor and forcing 14 turnovers. Seven of those miscues occurred in the opening nine minutes.
Academic missteps had forced Brook Lopez to miss the season's first nine games. This marked his first start, and he responded with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He made 7-of-14 from the field while facing a constant assault of double-teams. Brother Robin had just six points and three turnovers in 15 minutes.
The game looked in doubt once the Bulldogs closed within 39-34 at the 7:25 mark. But after Anthony Goods (16 points) drained a three-pointer in transition and Robin Lopez scored in the paint, Stanford enjoyed its first double-digit lead of the game.
The twins – products of the Fresno area's San Joaquin Memorial High – won both games against Fresno State during their brief Stanford careers. This marked the Bulldogs' first appearance at Stanford since 1954.
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