End of the Rhode
Stanford makes up 6 points in 59 seconds, shocks URI
Posted: Sun March 22, 1998 at 8:52 PM ET
Region MVP Arthur Lee scored 13 points and made a critical steal in the final 2:04 to send Stanford to San Antonio
ST. LOUIS (CNN/SI) -- They were living large in the nation's smallest state until the unlikely Rhode Island Rams committed the unthinkable.
Third-seeded Stanford capitalized on a pair of three-point plays as well as careless ballhandling and errant free throws in the game's final 59 seconds and stunned eighth-seeded Rhode Island 79-77 Sunday in the Midwest Regional final. The Cardinal advance to the Final Four for the first time in five decades.
Seventeen months after his dismissal as head coach at UCLA, Rhode Island head coach Jim Harrick seemed destined to lead his Rams into their first Final Four ever. But sloppy play cost Rhode Island the game, and it will instead be Stanford who will meet Kentucky in San Antonio on Saturday in the national semifinals.
"To be honest, it looked like we were going to lose," Cardinal
forward Mark Madsen said. "And then Arthur Lee started making
It was time for Lee, the little guy on an otherwise huge
Stanford team, to carry the Cardinal (30-4) to their first Final Four since their championship season of 1942.
"We needed something to happen," Lee said after scoring
13 of his 26 points in the final 2:04. He also made a key steal in the final minute.
"I decided in the last minute that we just had to get it done.
We had no other choice."
Jim Harrick's amazing run in his first year as Rhode Island's coach came to a crushing end
Rhode Island, the eighth seed, unraveled late but still had a
chance with five seconds left. However, Tyson Wheeler missed three
straight free throws that could have made it 77-77. He had been
fouled on a 3-pointer by Lee.
"You have to understand, our heart was cut out before that," Harrick
said. "To ask him to step up there in that moment, when the needle is
already in the balloon ... he had no zip left."
Rams players and coaches were upset that Lee put his hands to
his throat in the choke sign after Wheeler's second miss. "I was at midcourt,"
Lee said. "I didn't make him miss."
Lee's moment of poor sportsmanship was the only blemish on his
almost flawless performance down the stretch. And after carrying
the Cardinal, the 6-foot point guard earned a ride around the Kiel
Center as his teammates hoisted him upon their shoulders.
Lee, who had been unfavorably -- and, perhaps, unjustly --
compared to former Stanford star Brevin Knight, was named the
region's MVP for taking the third-seeded Cardinal where Knight
The Rams' loss brought a crushing end to Harrick's season.
Harrick, who won a national title at UCLA in 1995 but was dismissed
in disgrace for recruiting violations the following year, had taken
Rhode Island to the threshold of the Final Four in his first season
"We had a phenomenal year," said Harrick, whose Rams (25-9)
upset top seed Kansas in the second round. "It's a shame we had to
lose in the manner that we lost."
Rhode Island built a 60-49 lead and was still up 71-65 after
Cuttino Mobley hit two free throws with 59.3 seconds left.
A three-point play by Lee cut Stanford's deficit to 74-73.
Mobley caught the inbound pass but had the ball stripped by Lee;
the ball went directly to Mark Madsen, who dunked, was fouled, and
hit the free throw to put Stanford ahead.
The Rams felt Lee fouled Mobley on the play.
Mark Madsen had 15 points, including this dunk to put Stanford ahead for good
"He pushed my elbow," Mobley said.
"They hit his arm," Harrick said. "I heard it."
Lee disagreed: "If it happened, I would say it. What are they
going to do, take the Final Four away? But I didn't. I tipped the
ball out of his hand."
After a Rhode Island turnover, Kris Weems hit a free throw to
put Stanford up 77-74 before Lee's foul gave Wheeler his three free
A 66 percent free throw shooter, Wheeler 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 with 4.2 seconds left. He is 26 for 26
from the line in the tournament.
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.
Tyson Wheeler (21) had 24 points but missed three free throws in the final seconds that would have tied the game
"I'm very upset," Mobley said. "If you lose in the Elite
Eight and you know you should have won, how would you feel? It's
Wheeler scored 24 points and Mobley 20 for Rhode Island, still
seeking its first Final Four appearance.
The Rams 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 in the final 2:04.
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 left.
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 and set up the exciting finish.
"I felt no pressure whatsoever because I knew I just had to be
Arthur Lee," Lee said of the comparisons to Knight. "I love
Brevin. He was a great player who helped me a lot. But I've been
doing a lot of things pretty good."
Mike Montgomery heads off to San Antonio for his first appearance in the Final Four
Harrick had won nine of his previous 10 tournament games. He had
been 10-2 against Mike Montgomery in the 1990s and seemed ready to
add another win to that ledger when his Rams used a 17-5 run to
take their 11-point lead with 8 1/2 minutes to go.
But Stanford got 3-pointers from reserves Ryan Mendez and David
Moseley to stay close enough until Lee led the Cardinal all the way
After winning the 1942 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.
"I told our kids that good things happen when you do things
right," Montgomery said. "This is a long time coming for
The Associated Press contributed to this report.