NEW YORK- Stanford moved one step closer to bringing home a championship Tuesday night, defeating Massachusetts 74-64 in the semifinals of the Postseason NIT at Madison Square Garden.
What seemed like a long day of pregame build-up finally led into Tuesday's much-anticipated clash between the Cardinal and the Minutemen.
Stanford looked sharp from the outset, jumping out to a 12-point lead midway through the first half. Then again, if you heard a pregame speech like this one, you'd be ready to run through a wall, too!
With former Stanford standout Landry Fields of the New York Knicks cheering the Cardinal on, there was much to be excited about. Anthony Brown led the way with a season-high 18 points while Josh Owens notched a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds.
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Stanford Cardinal (25-11, 10-8 Pac-12)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (23-14, 6-12 Big Ten)
Date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4 p.m. PT Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) New York, N.Y. Series History: Minnesota leads 4-0 Last Meeting: Minnesota 89, Stanford 84 (Dec. 22, 1975) Radio: KNBR 1050 AM (PBP: John Platz, Analyst: Drew Shiller)
Westwood One Radio (PBP: Bob Papa, Analyst: Steve Lappas)
KZSU 90.1 FM (PBP: JD Haddon, Analyst: Kevin Zhang) TV: ESPN (PBP: Mike Patrick, Analyst: Fran Fraschilla, Analyst: Bill Raftery)
The Opening Tip
Stanford (25-11, 10-8 Pac-12) squares off against Minnesota (23-14, 6-12 Big Ten) on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the Postseason NIT. The Cardinal is searching for its second NIT title in school history after capturing the hardware in 1991. The opportunity to play for a championship is rare, and Stanford is playing arguably its best basketball of the year.
Thursday's game can be heard on KNBR 1050 AM and Stanford's official athletics website, www.gostanford.com, featuring the insightful tandem of John Platz (play-by-play) and Drew Shiller (analyst). KZSU 90.1 FM provides coverage with JD Haddon (play-by-play) and Kevin Zhang (analyst). Westwood One Radio has the national call with Bob Papa (play-by-play) and Steve Lappas (analyst). The game will be televised nationally on ESPN, with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Fran Fraschilla (analyst) and Bill Raftery (analyst).
Minnesota (23-14, 6-12 Big Ten) is making its 14th NIT appearance. The Golden Gophers are 21-11 in non-vacated NIT games, including the 1993 championship. Minnesota also won the 1998 NIT title but that has since been vacated due to an NCAA rules violation ... After enduring a six-game losing streak that spanned most of February, Minnesota has compiled a 6-1 record over its last seven contests ... Minnesota knocked off Washington 68-67 in overtime on Tuesday in the semifinals. The Golden Gophers led by 12 at halftime and survived a late charge to prevail in overtime ... Minnesota finished 6-12 in Big Ten action, tied for ninth overall. The Golden Gophers began conference play with four consecutive losses ... The Golden Gophers average 68.1 points and 35.0 rebounds per game while shooting 46.5 percent overall ... Opponents are averaging 64.5 points and 31.0 rebounds per game ... Head coach Tubby Smith has compiled a 490-212 record in 21 seasons ... Be sure to watch: Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 53 blocks, 56.7 percent FG), Julian Welch (9.6 ppg, team-high 99 assists) and Austin Hollins (9.1 ppg, 51 three-pointers).
Stanford All-Time vs. Minnesota
Minnesota has won all four meetings in the all-time series. It's been 37 years since the two schools last hooked up on the hardwood, with the Golden Gophers winning 89-84 on Dec. 22, 1975 on Stanford's home court. Minnesota also escaped with a 53-52 overtime home victory one year earlier. The other Golden Gopher victories came back in 1949 and 1958.
Stanford-Minnesota Common Opponents
Stanford and Minnesota share two common opponents (USC and Washington). The Cardinal swept its season series against the Trojans, winning 51-43 at home and 59-47 on the road. The Golden Gophers booked a 55-40 home win over the Trojans back on Dec. 3. Stanford faced Washington only once due to the unbalanced league schedule, falling 76-63 on Jan. 21 in Seattle. Minnesota slipped by Washington 68-67 in overtime on Tuesday night.
MSG and NYC: Been There, Done That
Stanford is just the fourth team to play at New York's Madison Square Garden in both the Preseason and Postseason NIT during the same season, joining Notre Dame (1999-00), Syracuse (2001-02) and Ohio State (2007-08).
Stanford All-Time In The Postseason
Stanford is now 34-20 all-time in 23 postseason appearances, including an 11-4 record in six NIT appearances. The Cardinal is also 21-15 in NCAA Tournament play (16 appearances) and 2-1 in CBI competition (1 appearance).
21 Years Ago: Stanford Captures 1991 NIT Championship
Stanford claimed the 1991 Postseason NIT championship thanks to an unlikely run that ended with a 78-72 victory over Oklahoma in the title game. It was the second national championship in program history, as the Cardinal also captured the 1942 NCAA crown. During its 1991 run, the Cardinal won four of its five games away from home and defeated Oklahoma for the title.
The Cardinal All-Time At MSG
Stanford is making its eighth all-time appearance at Madison Square Garden. This is Stanford's second Postseason NIT appearance (1991) at the famed arena. Stanford is 10-4 all-time at MSG.
March 29: Unchartered Territory
Thursday's game will represent the first time in school history Stanford has played a game on March 29. The Cardinal's previous longest season wrapped up on March 28, falling to Texas on that date in the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 and losing to
Kentucky on that same day in the 1998 Final Four.
Best March In School History?
Stanford improved to 6-1 in games played during the month of March following Tuesday's victory. The Cardinal last tallied six wins during the month of March in 2001, wrapping up 6-1. Stanford has never won seven games in March.
70 A Key Number For Stanford
Stanford improved to 19-1 when scoring at least 70 points in a game this year. following Tuesday's 74-64 victory over Massachusetts. The Cardinal is now 29-3 combined over the last two years when reaching the 70-point plateau.
Pregame Jitters? We'll Just Ask Landry...
Playing in an environment like Madison Square Garden might seem intimidating to most, but former Stanford standout Landry Fields adjusted quickly last year during his rookie campaign with the New York Knicks. With Spike Lee regularly sporting his jersey from courtside, Fields started a team-best 81 games while averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. Selected as the 39th overall pick in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft, Fields earned a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team. Producing one of the most memorable seasons in school history, Fields led the Pac-10 in scoring at 22.0 points per game and finished with 704 points for the third-best single-season total during his senior year.
Preseason NIT Runner-Up Finish Fuels Hot Start
Stanford fell just short of upsetting then-No. 5/5 Syracuse on Nov. 25 in the championship game of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off in a 69-63 defeat. Leading 25-24 at halftime and 55-47 with 6:47 left in the game, Stanford was poised to take down its highest-ranked opponent since a 75-68 home win over No. 3/2 UCLA on Jan. 28, 2007. But Syracuse closed the game on a 15-3 run to escape. Stanford won its first three Preseason NIT contests by double digits, knocking down a season-high nine three-pointers in an 82-67 semifinal win over Oklahoma State following West Regional victories over Fresno State and Colorado State.
Dick Davey To Retire At End Of Season
On March 6, associate head coach Dick Davey announced that he would retire from coaching at the end of the season. Highly-regarded as a true teacher of the game and well-respected veteran of West Coast basketball, Davey has served four seasons as Stanford's associate head coach while working mainly with the post players. No stranger to the Bay Area hoops scene, Davey previously spent 30 years at Santa Clara and served as the Broncos' head coach for 15 seasons.
Dawkins Inks Three To Letters Of Intent
Head coach Johnny Dawkins announced the signing of three incoming student-athletes to National Letters of Intent. Joining the Cardinal for the 2012-13 campaign are the following: Rosco Allen (Las Vegas, Nev., 6-9, 205-pound forward), Christian Sanders (Houston, Texas, 6-4, 185-pound guard) and Grant Verhoeven (Visalia, Calif., 6-9, 220-pound center). The class is currently ranked as high as No. 25 in the nation by Scout.com.
Spain Trip Provides Head Start
Stanford embarked on a six-game, 11-day tour of Spain in early September, touring Madrid, Alicante and Barcelona. Stanford played all six games against teams from the ACB League, regarded as the second-best league in the world behind the NBA. Among the opponents: Real Madrid, the 30-time Spanish League and eight-time Euroleague champion, and FC Barcelona Regal, which was playing its first-ever game against a college team and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in an exhibition game last October. Leading Stanford in Spain were Chasson Randle (11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds) and Josh Owens (8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 52.6 percent FG).
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Here are a few of the more memorable quotes from Stanford players this year:
"It kind of became a symbol of toughness. Giving everything you have and not caring what people think. The team has fed off it."
- Andrew Zimmermann describing his beard, which he started growing right before the team's trip to Spain in September.
"I don't think the guys noticed. We came here to play basketball, not climb mountains."
- Dwight Powell when asked about Colorado's elevation and home court advantage. Stanford handed Colorado its only home loss in Pac-12 play, thrashing the Buffaloes 74-50 in Boulder.
"I loved math coming in, but I realized there is math, and then there is Stanford math."
- John Gage on his decision to pursue a major in economics.
"I wanted to bring a student-athlete perspective to student government because that really had not been done before."
- Jack Trotter on his decision to run for office. Trotter is one of four senior class presidents.
"I consider it one of the hardest years of my life ... But at the same time, it's something I wouldn't trade anything for."
- Josh Owens on redshirting the 2009-10 season due to a medical condition.
"It was a feeling I had not experienced in a long time. I felt like a basketball player again."
- Andy Brown after finally making his collegiate debut on Nov. 23 following three ACL tears to his left knee in each of his first three seasons.
"Being smaller, you have to have that edge and a chip on your shoulder. You have to be the aggressor."
- Aaron Bright describing how his style of play offsets his 5-11 stature at the point guard spot.
"Honestly, I was just playing basketball. I was focused on trying to make complete plays."
- Chasson Randle after his tournament-record 27-point first half against Arizona State in the Pac-12 Tournament. Randle finished with a career-high 30 points as Stanford won 85-65.