TWISH: Tree, Oski square off

Two trends, both of which arose around the time this publication debuted the previous year, clashed when Stanford played host to Cal this week in 1995. We explore, as we remember "This Week in Stanford History".

First, The Bootleg had the fortune of arriving just in time for the century-old rivalry to hit an ugly patch. Postgame melees – borne out of frustrated Cal fans taking aim at the Stanford Tree – marred the 1992, 1996 and 1998 Big Games. Things spilled over to the basketball court in February of 1995, when a playful skirmish between mascots escalated into this happening. When it was all over, police escorted Oski from the premises in handcuffs. Bay Area college basketball theater had never seemed so absurd.

Second was the Pac-10's prominence. By the previous month, Cal and Stanford were among the five league teams – joining Arizona, Arizona State and eventual national champ UCLA – ranked in the Top 25. Five Pac-10 squads reached the NCAA tournament that year, a new record. California did not earn an invite, Stanford did, and this game was a major reason why.

Ranked No. 17 nationally, but just fifth in their own conference coming in, the Cardinal put the clamps on the Bears, who had won 41 of their first 57 games under third-year coach Todd Bozeman. The final score would foreshadow a changing of the guard.

Stanford soon became a Big Dance regular while Bozeman resigned from Berkeley just 16 months later, leaving an NCAA investigation in his wake. Cal fans would have preferred he have been led away in handcuffs.

February 15, 1995: Stanford 83, Cal 70

The Cardinal began the season 10-0, four wins from the then-school record set when Hank Lusietti perfected the two-handed shot. "I'm not interested in a guy who played in the '50s," said Brevin Knight at the time, off target by a couple decades.

With two-thirds of the Pac-10 season now completed, it was clear which direction each of these sides was headed. The Cardinal (16-5, 7-5 with the victory) got off the tournament bubble. Knight tied his own school record of 12 assists (a mark since broken by Mitch Johnson's 16 against Marquette in 2008). Sharpshooter Dion Cross went 4-for-6 on three-pointers while scoring a game-high 17 points.

On the other end, Cal hardly resembled a team that beat both Arizona and UCLA that year. (Stanford didn't beat either.) The streaky Bears made 10 of 24 three-pointers, but just 31.7 percent of their attempts from inside the arc. The Cardinal shot 55 percent. The visitors (12-9, 4-8) misfired on 14 of their first 16 shots from the floor, falling behind 17-5 eight minutes in.

Cal steadied itself as the first half closed, getting 11 points in the stanza from guard Monty Buckley while keeping Stanford freshman center Tim Young (just four points, no free throw attempts for the night) in check. The Cardinal led just 32-26 at halftime.

But with Knight a baron of efficiency – he needed only nine attempts from the floor to achieve his 16 points – and guard David Harbour scoring 13 points off the bench, Stanford never lost the lead. And once Harbour drained a three and, later, a pair of foul shots, the lead was back up to 43-34.

Cal then mysteriously de-emphazised Buckley, who tried only one shot from the floor in the second half. Tremaine Fowlkes, Randy Duck and K.J. Roberts combined to make only 6 of 29 attempts from the field. Future NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who helped the Bears reach the Sweet 16 two years later, was held scoreless on only one attempt.

Controversy, namely the recruiting of prep stars Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jelani Gardner, followed Bozeman throughout his Cal stint. But this game's tabloid material was far beyond his control.

The fracas began early in the second half with Oski shimmying in front the Stanford student section. The Tree – played that winter by a sophomore named Ari Mervis – locked him in what appeared to be a harmless tussle. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News published several days later, Mervis said Oski slipped on the floor and fell.

"I think Oski may have thought I pushed him down," Mervis said at the time. "And so he grabbed my legs."

Oski's version came from a Cal athletic department spokeswoman, who said the pair exchanged heated words before "things escalated." Stanford Band manager Chris Quaintance came charging across the Maples Pavilion floor to break things up. Oski, hands cuffed behind his back, maintained his trademark methodical walk as officers led him away. No charges were ever filed.


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