March 14, 2002
St. Louis, MO - Stanford didn't need it's typical high seed to make it eight straight opening-round victories in the NCAA tournament.
The No. 8 seed in the Midwest Regional shrugged off a pregame technical for turning in a lineup card late, getting 19 points and 12 rebounds from Curtis Borchardt in an 84-68 victory over No. 9 Western Kentucky on Thursday night.
Casey Jacobsen added 17 points, six rebounds and four assists despite 4-for-12 shooting.
"It's a really, really weird role being the underdog," Jacobsen said. "On past teams, if we didn't make it to the Final Four the season was considered a failure.
"We're looking at this like we're going to make up for some games earlier this year."
Stanford, which tied for second in the Pac-10, usually gets one of the top seeds. Stanford was a No. 1 the previous two seasons, a No. 2 in 1999 and No. 3 in 1998, but this season there's only one senior in the starting lineup.
As a result, Stanford (20-9) will play top-seeded Kansas in the second round Saturday.
"We will treat that with the utmost respect, as if that was our Final Four game," coach Mike Montgomery said.
Western Kentucky (28-4) got the early jump when Patrick Sparks, who had 20 points and nine assists, made one of two free throws on the technical. Montgomery said he might need a lineup coach.
"That was stupid," he said. "Somebody made a big deal of it and wanted to press the issue, so they really didn't have a choice."
But the Hilltoppers' last lead was 3-2 as their 18-game winning streak came to an end with their first loss since Dec. 30 at South Alabama.
Stanford withstood a second-half charge from Western Kentucky, which nearly recovered after shooting 23 percent in the first half and scoring only 22 points - only one point more than its season low. A lead that once was 16 points was whittled to one at 44-43 after Western Kentucky hit three straight 3-pointers to cap a 14-2 run with 11:49 to go.
"During that stretch, we finished shots and we worked our offense with patience and poise," coach Dennis Felton said. "Stanford made the adjustments and then took us out of what we wanted to do."
But the Cardinal quickly recovered with a 10-1 run - the last five points as reserve Josh Childress drove the baseline for a dunk and hit a 3-pointer in a 49-second span.
"We weathered the storm," Jacobsen said.
Western Kentucky, which shot 47 percent during the regular season, finished at 35 percent. The field-goal percentage was the school's worst since a 32-percent showing in the loss at South Alabama.
"Our struggles had a lot to do with the level Stanford played at," coach Dennis Felton said. "They just outplayed us."
Borchardt outplayed Western Kentucky's Chris Marcus in a battle of 7-footers with his 15th double-double of the season, and also stuffed one of Marcus' shots in the second half. The Stanford center shot 7-for-11 from the field.
"I just did my best to limit his touches and that's the most important thing," Borchardt said. "I think we had an advantage at that position."
Marcus drew two early fouls and was no factor in the first half, and finished with 10 points and two rebounds in 18 minutes. He's averaging 16.4 points and 9.4 rebounds, but isn't in top shape after coming back in February after missing two months with an ankle stress fracture of his left foot.
"It was hard to get into a rhythm because I sat so much in the first half," Marcus said. "Once I got the second foul I realized I would be sitting for the rest of the half and that hurt, because I knew my teammates needed me."
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer