STANFORD, Calif. -- Few days pass when Nick Robinson doesn’t think about “The Shot.” The same goes for many of the sellout crowd of 7,391 fans at Maples Pavilion, who saw No. 2 Stanford beat No. 12 Arizona 80-77 on Robinson’s 35-foot buzzer-beater on Feb. 7, 2004.
“It’s a great memory and amazing that 10 years have passed since that magical season,” said Robinson, now a father of four and the head basketball coach at Southern Utah. “I’m just so grateful for my teammates and the coaching staff that we were all able to be a part of such a great team with the Sixth Man Club and everybody who was in attendance.”
The atmosphere was electric for the Saturday matinee, televised nationally on ABC with Brent Musburger and Dick Vitale calling the game. Students started camping out for prime seats on Tuesday, and head coach Mike Montgomery and his staff rewarded many for their loyalty by distributing pizzas. The Cardinal was one of only two unbeaten teams in the country, along with St. Joseph’s, and was seeking its 20th consecutive victory.
Just before tipoff, Tiger Woods walked into Maples and sat courtside with his fiance and two friends, sending the Sixth Man Club into a frenzy. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh and Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett were also on hand. Few could have predicted the drama to follow.
“Before each game, players tend to take a moment to see who may be in the stands,” Robinson recalled. “Obviously, we were excited for the Sixth Man Club and we were always grateful for their support. I think we were all able to spot Tiger.”
Robinson, a 24-year-old forward and defensive specialist from Liberty, Mo., was pressed into action due to injuries to Justin Davis and Matt Haryasz. A two-time team captain, Robinson would finish his career with 107 steals, now good for 14th most in school history.
Stanford forged an early 13-point lead, but the Wildcats, led by explosive guard Salim Stoudamire, closed to 44-35 at halftime.
Arizona caught fire after the break, going on a 19-6 run, and held a 77-73 advantage with 58 seconds remaining. Things looked bleak for the Cardinal until All-America forward Josh Childress rattled in a 3-point baseline jumper from just in front of the team bench to tie the score at 77-77 with 23.2 seconds remaining.
With Maples shaking from top to bottom, everyone in the building knew the Wildcats would look to Stoudamire for the potential game-winner. He already had a game-high 24 points, several buckets coming from the 415 and 408 area codes.
Following a timeout, Arizona finally got him the ball with seven seconds left, but he dribbled into a triple team. Gritty Matt Lottich knocked the ball away, Robinson grabbed it, and the rest is history.
“Our entire focus was just getting a defensive stop and make Arizona take the toughest shot possible,” said Robinson. “Fortunately for us, I came up with the ball. I took a look and saw there was like 2.7 seconds left on the clock. I took two dribbles and let it go.”
Robinson wasn’t sure if he made it.
“It felt good,” he said. “Did I think it was going in? Probably not right away, but it was above the cylinder.”
The ball seemed to hang in the air, almost in suspended animation, nine players racing down the court to discover its fate. It hit nothing but net.
Instantly, the Sixth Man Club rushed the floor, mobbing Robinson and his teammates.
“Being at the bottom of the pile, it was definitely chaotic,” Robinson said. “It was an experience I will never forget.”
Musburger and Vitale could hardly contain themselves.
“It’s like a 35-foot putt down at Augusta to wrap up the Masters on the 18th green,” Musburger said. “This one will head right to ESPN Classic.”
In the craziness that ensued, Gerry Plunkett, Jim’s wife, was knocked down by the students and her left leg got caught in a chair. Her screams went unnoticed at first, but she escaped with a severe leg bruise.
“I have two thoughts,” Gerry said this week. “One, what a fabulous game. It was so exciting and Maples was packed. But it was kind of bittersweet because I got hurt. Nobody meant any harm. It was just the excitement of the game. I was lucky not to have any permanent damage.”
The Plunketts remain avid supporters of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and still sit in the same seats. For a while, they left early to avoid a similar incident. Admittedly, Gerry had flashbacks last week when the Cardinal nearly upset top-ranked Arizona at Maples.
“Stanford has done a much better job with security and is quite aware of what can happen and has tried to prevent it from happening again,” she said.
After the 2004 win, Montgomery invited Woods into the locker room.
“He said, ‘Congratulations on the win and everybody got a chance to shake his hand,’ ” said Robinson. “It was neat to meet him. And then afterward, when we saw the replays, you get a chance to see Tiger jumping up and down with the Sixth Man Club, which was great to see.”
Woods, a two-time All-American at Stanford, might have been the happiest person in Maples.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Woods said. “I’m really proud of how hard the guys battled at the end. I didn’t know I could jump that high. So glad I got a chance to be part of it.”
Robinson said players lingered a long time.
“Just enjoying the game and watching the replays,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
When it was suggested Stanford could have used him last week against Arizona, he laughed.
“I was glued to the TV, just like everybody else that wears Cardinal,” said Robinson. “They could have gotten it done.”
Robinson and his teammates autographed hundreds of posters of his game-winning shot. One hangs in Woods’ office.
“Mine, too,” Robinson said.