Ballers sweep Arizonas in TWISH

What's the best month for sports? September features baseball's pennant races coinciding with the start of football season. An old friend of mine once said April topped them all, with The Masters, the Final Four and baseball's Opening Day. A healthy debate to be sure.

This Week in Stanford History's latest edition brings to mind those weekends when Cardinal basketball clamored for headlines alongside the NFL playoffs. Back in 1996, No. 9 Arizona rode a seemingly endless win streak over the Cardinal into Maples Pavilion. Up the road, the 49ers – entering the playoffs as the defending Super Bowl champion for the last time – crashed with a thud against the Packers in the NFC Divisional round. Eight years later, Josh Childress bailed out the No. 4 Cardinal with a last-second basket against Arizona State.

So as you settle in for a weekend of postseason football, take time to remember these memorable moments courtesy of the Cardinal hoopsters.

Jan. 6, 1996: Stanford 80, Arizona 71

The fact that this game is listed as a sellout is misleading. Empty seats abounded at Maples as the contest tipped off about 45 minutes before the Niners began their ill-fated tilt. Arizona came in high in the rankings but reeling from defeat, having surrendered 11 three-pointers in a blowout loss two nights before against Shareef Abdul-Rahim and Cal.

Behind seven three-balls and a career-best 30 points from Dion Cross, Stanford finally ended its 15-game losing streak against the hated Wildcats. It had been almost six years to the day – Jan. 5, 1989 – since Stanford had last defeated Arizona. Coach Lute Olson, who arrived in Tuscon in 1983, had never before been swept on Bay Area road trip.

Stanford (8-2) won for the fifth straight game since 7-foot-1 center Tim Young was lost for the season with a bulging disk in his back. The Cardinal followed Cross' lead and went bonkers from long range, draining seven treys through the game's first 15 minutes. Andy Poppink added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Miles Simon may have enjoyed Final Four glory the following season, but on this afternoon, he became fodder for a signature Brevin Knight highlight.

After being whistled for an offensive foul, Knight retreated to half court while Arizona inbounded under its own basket. The Maples crowd howled in disbelief, as the whistle nullified a basket where Knight knifed through three defenders in the lane.

Simon caught the inbounds pass and was about to dribble up the floor, if not for a determined Knight. He steamed ahead, stole the ball, and converted a layup for the 57-48 lead. Just another memorable moment for Knight, who dislocated his finger six minutes into the game.

Jan. 8, 2004: Stanford 63, Arizona State 62 Nine seconds remained and the Cardinal, its unbeaten run to start the season in jeopardy of ending, trailed by a point. Paging Josh Childress.

Playing just his third game of the season, Childress' tip-in gave Stanford the winning points against the inspired Sun Devils. Once Jason Braxton's attempt at the other end clanged off the iron and time expired, the Cardinal were free to exhale.

Childress tallied 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. What was to be his final season at Stanford began late due to a foot injury that forced him to miss the first eight games.

Arizona State had a golden opportunity to salt the game away. Braxton went to the foul line with 21 seconds remaining, his side up by a point. The 46.2 percent foul-shooter bricked on the front end, however, and Childress rebounded. Stanford worked the ball low to Justin Davis, whose tough layup try rimmed out. Childress cleaned up, tipping the ball in with 9.4 seconds remaining.

A year earlier at Wells Fargo Arena, Childress' putback with 41 seconds left gave the Cardinal a one-point win.

"There's definitely a lot of luck involved," Childress said of his team's late heroics. "A lot of times, people say it's better to be lucky than good. We were lucky tonight."

But the game was not yet decided. Stanford called timeout after the hoop to set up its defense. Braxton drove the lane and with five seconds left, put up a shot, which Rob Little rebounded and then lost. Bodies collided in the ensuing mad scramble but no foul was called. The Sun Devils protested to no avail, and the Cardinal celebrated a 12th consecutive win over Arizona State.

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