This Date in Cardinal Hoops: 2-14-91
There was a time when a series of close Pac-10 losses plagued a Stanford basketball team filled with senior starters. Somehow it rings a familiar bell.
With its NCAA tournament hopes now all but extinguished, the 2009 Cardinal has inspired reflection on another a Stanford squad that endured frustratingly tough times.
Last-minute failures early in Pac-10 play kept the 1991 team from going NCAA tournament dancing in March. However, a surprising and entertaining late-season run followed, a preview of which occurred exactly 18 years ago today.
Small forward Deshon Wingate nearly logged a triple double, all-conference power forward Adam Keefe was his usual dominating self, and Stanford (14-9, 7-6) took out some frustration on the USC Trojans with a 92-76 win. The heartening Valentine's Day effort, in which the home team needed only five possessions to score 17 straight points in the first half, moved Stanford back over .500 in the Pac-10 conference.
A consolation celebration would come at season's end. The resurgent Cardinal would cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden in March, beating John Calipari and his UMass squad in the semifinals before downing the Oklahoma Sooner to win the NIT championship. Admit it...you thought it was a big deal at time!
Who would have thought that team could have rallied from adversity? And adversity there was. Earlier in the 1990-91 season, the Cardinal inbounded under its own basket in the final seconds against Oregon. What followed was heartbreaking clockwork at The Pit: Wingate was whistled for a five-second call, followed by Duck superstar Terrell Brandon sticking a three, and Oregon winning in overtime. Faster than you can fell an endangered spotted owl, Stanford was 0-2 in conference play.
"That hurt us…the two we lost in Oregon," Keefe said. "You think, 'If we can get two at Oregon, and sweep Washington and then split in L.A…' All of a sudden, you're not playing the game that night."
Then weeks later came a gut-wrencher at Maples against No. 5 Arizona. A tie game went the Wildcats way with one second left, with center Sean Rooks making a lay-in only after Keefe slipped on a wet spot in the paint.
The team entered the USC game at a crossroads, two games behind first-place UCLA but only two games from the 10th place cellar. There would be no Pac-10 tournament, conference officials having junked the initial incarnation after a uninspiring four-season run. Stanford hoped for the kind of performance of a month earlier. On the night television viewers anxiously saw the Gulf War begin on CNN, they could've switched over to ESPN to watch the Cardinal beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
USC, behind guards Harold Miner and Robert Pack raced to an early lead. Miner made his first six shots, as the Trojans held a 34-25 advantage with 5:01 left in the first half. Then, simultaneously, Stanford shooting guard Kenny Ammann went up for a three-pointer as the Trojans were whistled for a foul on Keefe
The shot sank through the net just after Keefe took a shove from USC's Ronnie Coleman. The rough and reliable 6-9 redhead, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 boards, drained both free throws. The rare five-point play was only the beginning of the Cardinal surge.
Sophomore sharpshooter Peter Dukes pulled the Cardinal within one with another three. Then came another long bomb from Ammann. Keefe, Brent Williams and Ammann followed with baskets, and Stanford led 42-34. Even seldom-impressed Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery could relax and be proud.
"I'm very, very pleased with that," Monty said of the win. "We got great contributions off the bench. We found guys who helped us out, guys who really got us going."
Guard John Patrick scored all 19 of his points in the second half. Wingate's numbers (16 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) went alongside some smothering defense on Miner. "Baby Jordan," as his game's resemblance to Michael's, missed 14 of his last 18 attempts from the floor.
Keefe fouled out of the physical battle of a game with 1:57 remaining for putting a moving screen on Pack. But as the big redhead suvived a host of bruises in the lane, the good times of 1991 were back. . He has sustained a number of bruised in the lane to collect 23 points and 11 boards.
The Cardinal and the good times of '91 were back.
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