Bear-Bashing Flashback: 2-17-01

Cal may have secured itself at least a conference co-championship under Mike Montgomery, but it sure has taken the "Golden Bores" a long time to escape irrelevance on the West Coast hoops scene. We'd gotten so accustomed to beating Cal, it wasn't even that fun anymore. That's no excuse for failing to remind ourselves occasionally of the thrill of crushing of our cross-bay cousins!

Bear-Bashing Flashback: 2-17-01

Ok, so Cal may have secured itself at least a conference co-championship under former Cardinal head coach and, in some minds, treasonous turncoat Mike Montgomery. Still, it sure has taken the "Golden Bores" a long time to work their way out of utter irrelevance in the once-wild world of West Coast hoops. In the past decade-and-a-half, we got so accustomed to beating them into comas, it wasn't even that fun anymore. That is no excuse for failing to remind ourselves occasionally of the incredible thrill of a full-court crushing of our cross-bay cousins. 

It's a task suited for Rodin's "The Thinker." 

Having to choose the most gratifying finish from the program's dominance of Cal between 1994 and 2002 allows Stanford hoops aficionados pause for thought. Was it the record-setting 101-50 drubbing at Stanford in 2000?  Or the 1995 game, when security guards led Oski out of Maples Pavilion in handcuffs? Or freshman Brevin Knight overcoming Jason Kidd's incredible 18 assists the previous year, beginning the Cardinal's run of 15 wins in 18 tries over its wanna-be rival?

Choosing the biggest Old Blue Buzzkill throughout those years is much easier. That came nine years ago, the most lopsided victory margin for Stanford in Berkeley...ever.

The Bad News Bears fielded their first NCAA tournament team in four years in 2001, boasting Pac-10 scoring leader Sean Lampley and a confident group fully intent on putting an end to an eight-game losing streak to the Cardinal. An extra rowdy Haas Pavilion, already soured by six consecutive Big Game losses, readied for the upset.

Instead, nationally second-ranked Stanford shockingly pummeled the Bears by an 88-56 margin and thoroughly demoralized a hardluck Haas Pavilion crowd. The visitors from the "(650)" shot 61 percent from the field and out-rebounded Cal 41-21. Jarron and Jason Collins teamed for 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor, with Jason even drilling an early three-pointer.

By the time it was over, rain was actually dripping from Haas Pavilion's roof onto the student section below.

No one player symbolized Cal's plight more than the shell-shocked Lampley, who was reduced to committing six turnovers and missing 14 his 18 field goal attempts. Jarron, stationed at power forward, shadowed his senior counterpart on the perimeter.

When Lampley tried the lane, Jason gave him the "Big Brother" treatment.

"Whenever I drove the lane, he was there," said Lampley, whose team trailed by 20 at halftime and by 31 points midway through the second half. Stanford's surprisingly stout effort came as a sweet sequel to the 84-58 drubbing on The Farm the previous month.

The 1990 San Francisco 49ers enjoyed a more dominant regular season than their two world champion predecessors. The 2006 Oakland A's finally won a playoff series, though both GM Billy Beane and his harshest critics agree that the 2001 edition was the best of the much-ballyhooed Beane Era. Match either of Stanford women's recent Final Four squads against the 1992 national champions, and the more recent vintage would likely emerge victorious.

These local teams, which all fell short of championships, come to mind in the discussion of Stanford basketball in 2000-01. Consider this squad among the decade's finest Pac-10 teams, even though it came a game short of reaching a second Final Four in four years.

The Cardinal held the nation's No. 1 ranking on three different occasions, topping both polls and holding the West Region's top seed entering the NCAA tournament. The 31 wins remain a school record. No other Division I team went unbeaten on the road. The Cardinal famously upset No. 1 and eventual national champion Duke at the Oakland Arena. 

Casey Jacobsen rained down threes and earned first-team All American honors. The Collins twins – who played together only two years due to Jason's nagging injuries – represented one of the most feared frontcourts in the country, making the honorable mention All-American team in their fourth and final year on campus together.

Mike McDonald improved a hundred-fold from his timid freshman season, emerging as a fine point guard as a senior. Fifth-year senior Ryan Mendez maintained his deadly outside shooting touch. 

Sophomore seven-footer and future lottery selection Curtis Borchardt swatted shots and drilled jumpers off the bench, at least before missing the last 14 games due to frustrating foot injuries.

Justin Davis endured his share of struggles as a starter in ensuing years, however, as a freshman he thrived in a supporting role, making the occasional SportsCenter highlight with a two-handed stuff.

Less wholesome elements were on display in front of ABC cameras at Haas Pavilion. Cal students held photos of McDonald with a pacifier in his mouth with the word "CRYBABY."  Tony Giovacchini told the San Jose Mercury News he was hit with a drink. Jacobsen said the insults got more personal than usual. Jason Collins said that was just fine.

"We wanted to shut them up and send them home," he said. "They really pumped us up."

That week, Borchardt was ruled out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot. Davis and classmate Teyo Johnson would be asked to fill the void at forward off the bench. Stanford (22-1, 10-1 coming in) had seven games remaining in its regular season -- the final one before the Pac-10 tournament's reincarnation the following year. The UCLA loss at home two weeks earlier remained the lone blemish.

Davis and Johnson responded with huge dividends, combining for 17 points and eight rebounds, symbolizing an afternoon where everything went right for the visitors.

The game was never in doubt. Collins' three made it 5-0. The advantage soon jumped to 14-5. The ten-minute mark of the first half saw Stanford up by 15 points. Jacobsen was a tidy 7-of-11 from the floor, scoring 18 points. Mendez added 12.

Onward the pounding went, with everyone taking their swings. Johnson had nine first-half points. Giovacchini dished out nine assists. Freshman Matt Lottich's back-to-back threes in the closing minutes stretched the lead to 32.

Duke wound up as national champs, beating Arizona in the NCAA tournament final. Stanford fell to Maryland, national champions by the next year, in the Elite Eight. "Our season ended too soon again," Jacobsen said, "but we had a record- breaking season. We were expected to win, but we are not ashamed to lose."

Even if they couldn't realize their own championship dreams, the mighty 2000-01 Cardinal could still crush their rival's hopes along the way.

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