No. 1 Stanford routs ASU, clinches Pac-10 crown
Updated: Sunday March 11, 2001 8:52 AM
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Montgomery was the last to climb the ladder. After cutting the final strand, he grabbed the net with one hand and held up three fingers with the other.
The crowd roared -- both for Stanford's players and for the coach who has fostered sustained excellence at a school that hadn't seen it in decades.
Top-ranked Stanford clinched its third consecutive Pac-10 Conference title with a 99-75 victory against Arizona State on Saturday. Though the Cardinal's three seniors were the centers of attention in the regular-season finale, no one enjoyed it more than Montgomery.
"It just feels so good to watch the kids and the students and all the fans just enjoy the whole thing so much," Montgomery said. "We're going to take a big deep breath now and enjoy this day, but we'll get right back to practice tomorrow."
Casey Jacobsen scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half, and Ryan Mendez had 19 as the Cardinal (28-2, 16-2) assured themselves of the nation's best regular-season record. They also avoided sharing their conference crown with Arizona or UCLA, the only visiting teams to win at Maples Pavilion this season.
Stanford, which also earned the Pac-10's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, hadn't won three consecutive conference crowns since winning the Pacific Coast Conference from 1936-38.
After an easy, festive win, the Cardinal were in a reflective mood.
"This is such a great program," said Mendez, who set conference and school marks for consecutive free throws made.
"The old guys leave, the new guys come in year after year, and we get good results. We seem to go to the tournament year after year. We're just looking at this as a beginning."
The Cardinal, who lost 76-75 to No. 8 Arizona on Thursday night on a last-second basket, left no doubt against the Sun Devils (13-16, 5-13). Stanford led by 22 points in the first half and by 26 in the second while cruising to its eighth victory in nine games, likely assuring the Cardinal of the top seed in the West Regional.
"The guys on this team have the experience to go further in the tournament," Jarron Collins said. "As freshmen and sophomores, we've been through frustration. We know what it feels like, and we know what it takes to overcome that."
All five Stanford starters scored in double figures. Jacobsen hit four 3-pointers, while Jarron Collins had 15 points, Mike McDonald 12 points and Jason Collins 10.
"That's the outcome I was looking for," Montgomery said. "Our kids have been focused and have worked hard all the way through this thing."
With Stanford undergrad Chelsea Clinton cheering from a seat two rows behind the west basket, Arizona State lost its seventh consecutive to Stanford and ended the season with five losses in seven games.
Stanford seniors Mendez, Jarron Collins and McDonald were honored before the game. All three starters played key roles as the Cardinal quickly grabbed an insurmountable lead and spent the second half in a free-throw shooting contest.
Alton Mason, the Sun Devils' only senior, had 23 points. Awvee Storey had 16 points and 16 rebounds before becoming one of three Arizona State players to foul out in yet another heavily officiated Pac-10 game. Forty-seven free throws were shot in the second half -- including 34 in a 7 1/2-minute stretch.
"I think Stanford is going to definintely get a No. 1 [seed]," Arizona State head coach Rob Evans said. "But they're going to find out the game is called differently all around the country. Stanford always seems to go to the line a lot. They may not find themselves going to the line quite as much in the tournament."
Stanford ended the game in style, with Mendez throwing an alley-oop pass to the 6-foot-1 McDonald, who made a layup with 2:08 left. Moments later, Montgomery threw his hands in the air to incite the student body to an ovation when all three seniors left the game together.
"You can't ask for anything more out of a final game than that," McDonald said. "Now we're ready to go on, hopefully for the next three weeks, and do something special."
Mendez, who had hit 41 consecutive free throws before the game, made six in the first half to break the school record and two Pac-10 marks for consecutive free throws.
The Stanford record, which he shared with Todd Lichti, was four less than the conference record, set earlier this year by Southern Cal's David Bluthenthal.
Mendez broke the Pac-10 record on two free throws after a
technical foul on Evans, whose team fell behind 50-28 late in the
first half. The Sun Devils didn't use a player taller than 6-foot-9
against the Collins twins, who blocked three shots apiece and
grabbed 18 rebounds.