This Date in Cardinal Hoops: 1-17-04

The Bootleg's Mark DeVaughn continues his series of flashbacks with a look back at the last time a Mike Montgomery-coached Cardinal team went up against cross-Bay rival Cal. The undefeated Cardinal held off the upset-minded Bears with tough defense and a tough-as-nails performance from the line...and it happened on This Date in Cardinal Hoops!

This Date in Cardinal Hoops: 1-17-04

From the "nobody-realized-it-at-the-time" department comes the latest edition of our flashback series.

On this date in 2004, victory No. 14 took place during a school-record stretch of 26 consecutive victories to begin the 2003-04 season. Even more enjoyably, it came at the expense of the University of California at Berkeley. Stanford produced a nearly flawless performance at the foul line, dominated the paint and outlasted talented freshman Leon Powe and soon-to-transfer Marquise Kately and the largely underclassmen-stocked Bears by the score of 68-61 to notch its 12th win in its last 14 games against the traditional cross-Bay rival.

"All it means is that we're pretty good up until now," Mike Montgomery said afterwards, referring to his club's No. 3-ranking in the national polls. "It doesn't mean that we're better than anybody."

Today, January 17, 2009, Montgomery brings the 23rd ranked Bears into Maples Pavilion, exactly five years to the day from his last time coaching the Cardinal against rival California at Maples Pavilion.

Who knew?

Who would have known that Monty's next courtside appearance on the Maples, as a head coach, would be tonight in blue and gold? His stunning, but hardly surprising departure to the Golden State Warriors at season's end was mere static compared to the shock of his hiring at Berkeley last spring.

The Saturday night effort of five years ago marked another in a long line of good old-fashioned beatings his Stanford teams issued against the historically undisciplined Golden Bears.

In 2004 there was no coasting on the court. The home-standing Cardinal (14-0, 5-0) had to hold off a late charge from Cal (6-8, 2-3), making an impressive 25 of 28 shots from the foul line. Fifth-year senior Justin Davis scored 13 points, had seven rebounds, and made four steals while fellow senior Matt Lottich's 15 points included a pair of three-pointers in the opening three minutes of the second half. After a fairly ugly, low-scoring first half that saw Stanford lead 24-17, the Cardinal built a 55-39 lead with less than six minutes to play and the Sixth Man Club was living it up, thinking it was essentially over.

But of course it's never over 'til it's over! Led by 19 second-half points from British-born guard Richard Midgely, Cal came racing back, cutting the deficit to 62-58 with 45 seconds to play. In the end, Ben Braun's comeback-minded crew couldn't keep the Cardinal from making all eight of their free throws over the final minute. Stanford held on, keeping the letdown bug at bay.

"We thought it was over and we were back on our heels on defense,'' said junior center Rob Little, who stuffed home a pair of dunks. "You knock down some 3's, we miss a few free throws and you're back in the game. Luckily we were 25-for-28 from the free throw line.''

The previous weekend had featured what would be viewed as the most complete effort during the Cardinal's 26-0 start. No. 4 Stanford won an 82-72 decision at third-ranked Arizona that hardly that close. The visitors led by 20 with four minutes remaining, en route to a fourth straight win at the McKale Center. Wildcats center Channing Frye compared the game against the Cardinal to "pushing a rock up a hill."

When Cal visited Maples the following Saturday, both teams were a little tight early. Nick Robinson's fast break hoop four minutes after the opening tip was the game's first score. The Bears, a year removed from their most recent NCAA tournament win, played stifling defense throughout the first half. Stanford shot only 36.4 percent in the first 20 minutes.

Hopefully it will be the Cardinal playing stifling defense in 2009 and we can send our old pal Mike Montgomery packing!

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