March 22, 1998
By MIKE NADEL
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Arthur Lee, the little guy on a huge team, carried Stanford
to the Final Four for the first time in five decades.
In a riveting comeback, Stanford ended Rhode Island's extraordinary
tournament run as Lee scored 13 of his 26 points in the final 2:04 and made a
steal that gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
The third-seeded Cardinal rallied from a six-point deficit with 59 seconds
left to beat the No. 8 seed 79-77 Sunday for the Midwest Regional title.
Lee was hoisted on his teammates' shoulders after the game, then strutted
around the court with arms raised.
"It's really unbelievable," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "It was
looking like we were in trouble - then bang! These guys have a lot of heart, a
lot of character."
Stanford (30-4), which last reached the Final Four in its championship
season of 1942, will meet Kentucky or Duke next Saturday at San Antonio.
The outcome brought a crushing end to Jim Harrick's season. The coach, who
won a national title at UCLA in 1995 but was dismissed in disgrace, had taken
Rhode Island in his first year to the threshold of the Final Four.
Lee, a 6-footer who had been unfavorably - and, perhaps, unjustly - compared
to former Stanford star Brevin Knight, was named the region's MVP for taking
the Cardinal where Knight couldn't.
Lee's steal from Cuttino Mobley led to Mark Madsen's three-point play with
26.2 seconds left to give Stanford the lead for good. He clinched the victory
with two free throws with 4.2 seconds left. He was 26-for-26 from the line in
Tyson Wheeler scored 24 points but missed three crucial late free throws for
Rhode Island (25-9), still seeking its first Final Four appearance. The Rams
had knocked off top seed Kansas in the second round.
Mobley added 20 points for the Rams, who did a great job against the much
taller Cardinal players. With 7-foot-1 Tim Young and the 6-8 Madsen neutralized
most of the game, it fell upon Lee to take over.
And that's just what he did after Rhode Island took a 66-60 lead.
Lee drove for a double-pump layup, made two 3-pointers with defenders draped
all over him and fed Madsen for a layup to make it 72-70 with 40.7 seconds
After two free throws by the Rams' Preston Murphy, Lee drove for a layup,
was fouled by Luther Clay and hit the foul shot to make it a one-point game.
Mobley got the inbound pass but was stripped by Lee and the ball went
directly to Madsen, who dunked, was fouled by Antonio Reynolds-Dean, and hit
the free throw. Harrick complained to the referees that Mobley had been fouled
on the strip.
Kris Weems hit a free throw to put Stanford up 77-74 before Lee fouled
Wheeler on a 3-point attempt. Wheeler, a 66 percent free throw shooter, was
well short on his first two tries before missing the third on purpose. The
rebound went out of bounds to Stanford, which inbounded to Lee. He was fouled
and made both shots.
Mobley hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer and then stood on the
court, hunched over, as Stanford players and coaches celebrated all around him.
Harrick, who was fired from UCLA for lying about minor recruiting
violations, had won nine of his previous 10 tournament games.
He had been 10-2 against Montgomery in the 1990s and seemed ready to add
another win to that ledger when his Rams used a 17-5 run to take a 60-49 lead
with 8 1/2 minutes to go.
But Stanford, ranked 10th in the final AP poll, got 3-pointers from reserves
Ryan Mendez and David Moseley to stay close enough until Lee led the Cardinal
all the way back.
Madsen had 15 points and Young 14 for Stanford, which defeated the College
of Charleston, Western Michigan and Purdue before beating the Rams.
Stanford opened the season with 18 wins and then lost three of four. Since
Feb. 12, it is 11-1. Stanford is 9-0 on neutral courts, including a 70-69
victory over Rhode Island in the Cable Car Classic at San Jose on Dec. 29.
After winning the '42 title, the Cardinal didn't return to the tournament
for 47 years. But starting in 1987-88, Montgomery's second season, Stanford has
made 10 postseason appearances in 11 years, including six NCAAs.