Stanford beats UCLA to go 16-0 and move up to No. 5, Cancer victim fights back, Hoosiers hero
Before every game at Maples Pavilion this season, Stanford junior reserve forward Mark Seaton has slid The Rocky Story, a collection of tunes from the Sylvester Stallone movies, into a CD player in the locker room and turned up the volume. However, it may be time to retire Seaton's well-worn disc. For Stanford, which was 16-0 and fifth-ranked at week's end, that underdog stuff just isn't gonna fly now.
With its 93-80 win over then eighth-ranked UCLA last Saturday, the Cardinal boosted its national standing to the highest it has been since Stanford won the NCAA title in 1942. "Today Stanford proved that it is capable of going to the Final Four," said UCLA coach Steve Lavin, after his quicker Bruins nearly overcame an 18-point halftime deficit. UCLA's defeat occurred in the same deafening pit where last season the Bruins suffered their worst loss ever, 109-61, as signs all over Maples Pavilion reminded them last Saturday.
Fazed by neither Maples's bouncy, spring-cushioned floor nor the taunting of the Stanford student section, which chanted "Ma-ri-jua-na!" each time UCLA's scowling center Jelani McCoy—fresh from a nine-game suspension for allegedly testing positive for drug use—stepped to the foul line, the Bruins beat the Cardinal, the Pac-10's top rebounding team, on the boards 48-36. What killed UCLA was Stanford's perimeter game. After making 15 three-pointers in its 99-62 pancaking of USC last Thursday, the Cardinal canned 14 more treys, out of 26 attempts, against the Bruins. "Stanford has that combination coaches dream about," said Lavin. "Great interior post play, great three-point shooters, tremendous depth. It really doesn't have a chink in its armor."
Indeed, what figured to be a devastating blow to the Cardinal—the graduation of point guard Brevin Knight, who led Stanford to the Sweet 16 last March and was then drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers—has instead made the Cardinal better. "Last year a lot of guys would sit back and watch Brevin," says junior Arthur Lee, who has taken Knight's place as point guard. "This year we can't rely on one guy. We have to work as a team."
In Stanford coach Mike Montgomery's team concept there's no star or even a go-to guy. Moreover, the demarcation between regulars and reserves is murky; despite injuries that have kept sophomore power forward Mark Madsen and blue-chip freshman center Jason Collins out, the Cardinal rotation still goes 12 deep. (Against UCLA, 10 Stanford players saw at least 11 minutes of action.) Six players have led the Cardinal in scoring. At the end of last week only one player, junior guard Kris Weems, was ranked among the Pac-10's top 20 scorers (18th, with 13.8 points a game), and only 7'1" junior center Tim Young was among the conference's top 10 in blocks (1.5) and rebounds (7.6). But Stanford leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounding margin and field goal percentage defense, among other categories. Says Montgomery, a man not given to hyperbole, "It's hard to imagine a team more unselfish than this one."
Even a team as egalitarian as this one needs leadership, and fortunately Lee picked up a thing or two practicing against Knight for two years. Described by Madsen as "unafraid of anyone or anything," Lee is starting to take the clutch shots, starting to take the vocal lead on what is otherwise a quiet team. He's even unafraid to say that he shares Lavin's vision of Stanford as a Final Four team. "Why not?" he says. "Anything short of that would be a disappointment. We're for real, and it's about time people realized that."
Hopes and Dreams on Hold
After just a few weeks of practice, UNC-Charlotte freshman Charles Hayward was having difficulty keeping up with his teammates. A 6'8" forward from Alexandria, La., Hayward had arrived last June as the most touted basketball recruit in 49ers history, but now he appeared a step slow on defense, lacked the offensive spark that had initially caught coach Melvin Watkins's eye and regularly finished last in conditioning drills.
Losing confidence and taking heat from coaches and teammates, Hayward, at the suggestion of trainer Bret Wood, had a blood workup done on Oct. 28. Two days later he went to University Hospital in Charlotte for more tests. On Halloween doctors told Hayward that he had acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer that affects blood-forming tissues. "I couldn't believe it," Havward says. "It was scary. I felt like I was watching a movie. The first thing I thought about was basketball. Would I ever be able to play basketball again?"