Feb. 4, 1988: Stanford 82, No. 1 Arizona 74
The buildup: The Wildcats (20-2) are perfect through their first nine Pac-10 games by an average of 29 points. Stanford (13-7, 5-4) aims to avenge a 25-point blowout at the McKale Center weeks earlier.
The deciding factors: Todd Lichti leads all scorers with 23 points. Brian McSweeney’s defense keeps Sean Elliott in check. Arizona is held scoreless over the final 5 minutes, 33 seconds. Greg Butler’s tip-in gives Stanford a 77-74 lead with 1:17 left.
The aftermath: There’s no denying the significance of a victory over a top-ranked team, on ESPN, in front of a sold-out and raucous Maples Pavilion. After 46 years without a postseason berth, Stanford’s decades-long hibernation is finally over. The Cardinal’s NIT berth, coupled with this game, signals the dawn of a new era.
Jan. 24, 1991: No 5 Arizona 78, Stanford 76
The buildup: With four senior starters alongside Adam Keefe, Stanford (10-6, 3-3) is eager to send the fifth-ranked visitors (15-2, 4-1) to their sixth loss in seven trips to Maples.
The deciding factors: Sean Rooks delivers in the paint with one second left to break the tie, but only after Keefe slips on a puddle of sweat while defending. A charging call on Stanford guard John Patrick with 32 seconds to play sets up the decisive possession. Stanford led 76-72 on an Andrew Vlahov hoop with 2:20 remaining, but never scored again.
The aftermath: The outcome keeps Stanford out of the NCAA field. Arizona wins an unprecedented fourth straight conference crown, the last time a Pac-10/12 earned that honor.
Feb. 6, 1992: No. 7 Arizona 72, Stanford 70
The buildup: The Cats (15-3, 5-2) are weeks removed from having their 71-game home winning streak snapped by UCLA. A bunch of high-five’n white guys at first glance, Keefe and the Cardinal (12-4, 4-3) are nonetheless are right in the thick of an NCAA tournament chase.
The deciding factors: Five seconds remained in a game deadlocked at 70-70. Keefe stood at the foul line. It was all downhill from there. A Keefe missed free throw, a lane violation by Brent Williams, and a buzzer-beating layup by Khalid Reeves add up to what has to be the most heartbreaking Stanford home loss ever.
The aftermath: Mike Montgomery takes blame for the defeat, having ordered Williams to come off the line after Keefe’s miss, leading to the fateful lane violation call. Stanford at least sneaks into the NCAA’s as a No. 12 seed.
Jan. 14, 1995: No. 13 Arizona 89, Stanford 83 (OT)
The buildup: Brevin Knight and Dion Cross give the Cardinal (11-1 after winning its first 10 games) one of the best backcourts in the conference. The Wildcats (11-3, 1-1) are again a Pac-10 favorite after reaching the Final Four a year earlier.
The deciding factors: Stanford leads by 11 points midway through the second half, but Damon Stoudamire will not be stopped. The star guard sets a then-Maples record with 45 points, draining seven three-pointers.
The aftermath: Four starters average in double-figures as Stanford begins a streak of 11 straight NCAA tournament berths, but can’t yet call itself a conference power. It will lose its 15th straight to Arizona later in the year.
March 6, 1997: No. 23 Stanford 81, No. 12 Arizona 80
The buildup: Stanford (18-7, 10-6) needs two wins to finish a perfect 12-0 at home. The Cardinal’s resume would be even stronger, if not for a 76-75 last-second loss to Arizona (19-7, 11-6) two months earlier.
The deciding factors: Arizona leads throughout the second half after overcoming an early 10-point deficit. Stanford gains possession with 15 seconds left. Knight drives before dishing to the late Pete Sauer on the baseline. He buries the 10-foot jumper with six seconds remaining. Mike Bibby’s off-balance three falls short, and bedlam reigns at Maples.
The aftermath: After wrapping up an unblemished home record, Stanford becomes one of four Pac-10 teams to reach the Sweet 16 (a first for the conference). The Wildcats, with seven conference losses, become the first No. 7 seed to claim an NCAA tournament crown.
March 8, 2001: No. 8 Arizona 76, No. 1 Stanford 75
The buildup: The Cardinal (27-1, 15-1) need only a split of their final homestand to claim a second outright Pac-10 title in three years. The Wildcats (21-7, 13-3) are gaining late-season momentum, that after the death of Lute Olson’s beloved wife, Bobbi. Outside Maples, a student holds up a sign reading, “Will Tutor Math for Tickets.”
The deciding factors: Another last-second shot proves the difference, a Michael Wright layup in traffic with three seconds left. Like a decade earlier, an offensive foul on Stanford (Jason Collins) with under a minute to play looms large. Jason had earlier picked up three fouls in the game’s first five minutes.
The aftermath: Stanford must wait another two nights to cut down the nets and celebrate a Pac-10 crown. The Cardinal earns a No. 1 seed in the West but fall a step short of a Final Four goal the Wildcats ultimately reach. Yours truly, then a college senior, writes my first opinion column, urging fellow Syracuse students to stay up late, explore the far reaches of their TV channel guide and watch more Pac-10 hoops.
Feb. 2, 2002: No. 19 Arizona 88, No. 18 Stanford 82 (OT)
The buildup: Both sides are reloading, but they can still bring it. Casey Jacobsen broke Stoudamire’s Maples scoring record two nights earlier for Stanford (13-5, 6-3). Luke Walton and Jason Gardner are the standouts for Arizona (14-6, 7-3).
The deciding factors: Sensing a theme here? Stanford’s 15-point lead in the second half’s opening minutes goes down in a hail of Channing Frye baskets (10-of-13 attempts) and misfires on the other end. The Cardinal makes only two field goals in the game’s final 11 minutes.
The aftermath: In the McKale Center rematch, Curtis Borchardt’s 28 points – 10 in the final 1:44 – score a measure of revenge. USC claims the regular season conference title, the first time in five years neither Stanford nor Arizona earn that honor.
March 1, 2003: No. 1 Arizona 82, No. 19 Stanford 79
The buildup: The Wildcats (22-2, 14-1) are the prohibitive national title favorites. Mike Montgomery is compiling perhaps his most impressive job of coaching at Stanford, taking a team that was supposed to finish in the bottom half of the standings to a 13-3 Pac-10 record.
The deciding factors: The inspired Cardinal nearly pull off the upset. But despite 20 points and 10 rebounds from Josh Childress, Stanford shoots just 35 percent. Salim Stoudamire scores a game-high 18 points. Childress and Julius Barnes miss last-second three-pointers.
The aftermath: A handful of Arizona fans are in New Orleans for the Final Four, but their team is not. The Wildcats get bounced from the Elite Eight by Kansas, while the second round (against UConn) is once again the Cardinal’s postseason undoing.
Feb. 7, 2004: No 2 Stanford 80, No. 12 Arizona 77
The buildup: Wow, where to begin? Tiger, Elin, Jerry Yang, Jim Plunkett, Dickie V., Brent Musburger, St. Joe’s and Stanford (19-0) as the nation’s only undefeated teams…It all adds up to “11” on the intrigue amp. Arizona (14-5, 6-4) hasn’t lost at Maples in five years.
The deciding factors: Chris Hernandez scores 20 points as Stanford bolts to a 47-38 lead at halftime. Andre Igoudala keys a 14-0 run by the Wildcats, who lead by a 72-67 margin with less than four minutes left. But all that is hard to remember, considering how the final seconds turn out.
The aftermath: Once the madhouse clears, a game-changing era in Pac-10 hoops ends, as Montgomery and Olson will never again face each other. The former, who bolted for the Warriors that offseason, finishes 12-27 against his ivory-haired rival.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: 1989 (Stanford 82, Arizona 74 after the Wildcats storm to a 21-4 lead); 2007 (Arizona wins, 85-80 in OT); 2014 (No.1 Arizona escapes with a 60-57 victory).
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