This Date in Cardinal Hoops - 12-22-96

Sometimes it doesn't matter how well a player has performed until the very last play he makes. It was one of those days for Stanford's all-time point guard Brevin Knight in a highly anticipated match-up against Seton Hall in 1996. It was great drama, involving a match-up of talented guards from the same neighborhood. Thankfully, it worked out in Stanford's favor on "This Date in Cardinal Hoops!"

This Date in Cardinal Hoops - 12-22-96

Brevin Knight's private life entered ESPN's focus 13 years ago. A SportsCenter segment, filmed during #22 Stanford's road swing at Seton Hall, featured a family reunion at Knight's boyhood home in nearby East Orange, N.J.

"These are the positive things we like to see happen," said Knight's mom, Brenda, a longtime secretary at the Seton Hall campus. "Thank God, it's our child. There's a positiveness to it."

Though he didn't quite play like the All-American he would become during that senior season, Knight made the winning difference on this very date back in 1996. It was his two clutch free throws with 3.6 seconds left in overtime that lifted the Cardinal to a thrilling 83-81 win against the home-standing Pirates.

Unlike three years earlier, the Big East foe Brevin Knight grew up watching (the one where father Melvin served as an assistant coach) failed to deter a native son.

Knight was still only 17 years old when the Cardinal ventured east to play in the Pirates' 1993 holiday tournament. Seton Hall had been an NCAA runner-up four years earlier. "The Hall" boasted starting guard Danny Hurley (kid brother of Bobby), whose St. Anthony  High squad had beaten Knight's Seton Hall Prep side for a New Jersey 1992-93 state title. Brevin, already a starter at the point as a true freshman, made only 2-of-11 field goals that day as Stanford lost 75-69. "I think he was distracted by coming home," coach Mike Montgomery had said at the time. "I think Brevin had one of his poorer performances."

The two sides would meet two seasons later, with the Cardinal dominating a 83-60 decision at San Jose Arena and delighting in a more physical game. For the bruisers who would be Final Four-bound within two years, these were formative years. A Big East officiating crew oversaw things.  "Pac-10 refs call ticky-tack calls," Dion Cross said. "These guys let you play." Knight tallied 13 points and nine assists.

For the rubber match in 1996, Stanford had four new starters surrounding Knight. The pregame hype also involved the Pirates' standout point guard. Freshman Shaheen Holloway entered Seton Hall as one of the country's most highly recruited point guards.

Holloway was a New York City native who moved to New Jersey – specifically, into the home of Knight's great aunt – to play high school hoops.

Knight's winning legacy had already taken root. Stanford owned to back-to-back NCAA tournament bids, a program first. The Cardinal's Sweet 16 appearance in 1996-1997 was the third in a streak of 11 straight invitations to the Big Dance. A Great Alaska Shootout loss to the College of Charleston was the lone defeat for Stanford (5-1) coming into the Seton Hall game.

The pesky Pirates managed to put the blockade on Knight, who missed all but one of his nine shots from the floor. He scored 14 points (compared to 20 for the upstart Holloway). His only basket came with 2:08 to play in OT. It was the supporting cast of sophomores who enjoyed the better individual efforts.

Kris Weems scored 17 points and drilled four three-pointers. 7-1 Center Tim Young did whatever he wanted in the post, scoring a career-high 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Young had 16 points and 13 boards by halftime. Pete Van Elswyk went 3-of-3 at the line to put Stanford up 81-78 with 45 seconds remaining in overtime.

Seton Hall (3-3 entering the night) answered 20 seconds later. The Pirates made it 81-81 on Levell Sanders's three-pointer. It was the 10th tie or lead change since halftime. No team enjoyed a bigger lead than the hosts' seven-point edge (63-56) with 7:38 remained in the second half.

The outcome came down to the point guards. Knight tried but failed to break a tie in the dying seconds of regulation, Holloway thwarting the elder's drive by poking the ball away. Knight complained in vain for a foul.

The scene later repeated itself – but it would include a different and far more satisfying ending.

Stanford got the ball back, with Knight winding the clock down before beginning his drive with seven ticks remaining. This time, he drew the foul on Holloway. He calmly drained both free throws in front of the more than 700 friends, family and other locals who purchased tickets through Knight's high school alma mater.

Seton Hall, after calling three time-outs, nearly had the last word. The long inbounds pass made its way to Holloway, who finished the game just 6-of-24 from the floor. The phenom's desperation three-pointer went halfway down – and then spun out – as the horn sounded.

''I wanted to make the play, drive and either make a shot, get fouled or dish,'' Knight said. ''It was the same exact play at the end of regulation and overtime. The first time, the official didn't call the foul. The second time, he did. That was the difference."'

And as was the case in so many late-game situations during the Brevin Knight era, #22 ultimately made the difference.

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