Stanford Basketball Sports Retro Look
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Close your eyes and think back to when college basketball teams based their offense around passing, when they won games by hitting free throws and their best scorer couldn’t dunk.
Open your eyes, and you’re watching 20th-ranked Stanford.
With starting center Tim Young lost for the season with back problems, Stanford has no player over 6-foot-8 in its starting lineup.
But after last Saturday’s 67-66 win over UCLA, Stanford has won five straight and is just one game behind the Bruins in the conference standings with an 8-3 record.
It was the first time since the 1965-66 season the Cardinal had beaten a defending national champion.
Stanford, which is 15-5 overall, is a team of role players. Brevin Knight is the ballhandler and penetrator, Dion Cross is the outside shooter, David Harbour is the defensive specialist, Andy Poppink and Darren Allaway provide the rebounds.
When coach Mike Montgomery is asked during a conference call how his team has gotten back into the Pac-10 title race, he reaches for a slip of paper above his desk.
``The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,″ he says, reading from the note. ``We know people like Cross will make their foul shots, Brevin will not turn it over. We all know what we’re going to do.″
Knight, a lightning-quick point guard, averages 15.7 points and 7.7 assists a game. Cross averages 15.5 points per game and has made 94 percent of his free throws this season, including a streak of 27 straight that ended last Thursday.
Stanford, just fifth in the league in scoring, is one of the nation’s best teams at the free throw line, making 75 percent of its foul shots to lead the Pac-10.
Knight and Cross are likely to touch the ball several times during each possession, as the Cardinal pass and pass until they get a good shot. In these days of one-on-one play, Stanford is a throwback to earlier teams.
Poppink says most teams won’t admit to having an old-fashioned style, but acknowledges the Cardinal enjoy succeeding against teams that supposedly have better athletes.
``We do match up well against those sorts of teams. A lot of times we’re able to frustrate teams that play like that,″ Poppink says. ``(Montgomery) recruits people who are solid basketball players. It’s not necessarily the great runners, jumpers, athletes you see here.″
Montgomery says ``the intangible things like heart″ cannot be overlooked, and points to the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics of the 1960s and 1970s as championship squads that succeeded because of teamwork.
``I think people perceive talent as being faster, quicker, jumping higher, and that’s all well and good,″ he says. ``But it’s still not taking into account skill, the way you pass and play the game. There is still a place in the game for skill and timing and execution.″
Poppink has been a key element in Stanford’s recent success. With Young sidelined, the 6-7 Poppink has often been matched up against much taller post players _ and has more than held his own.
``It definitely has made us move the ball a little more,″ Poppink says. ``Tim never got too far from the low block, and now we have guys that can go inside and outside. It opens it up a little bit. It’s like having an extra passer in the game.″
Knight is the quarterback of Stanford’s team coordination. Opposing coaches such as UCLA’s Jim Harrick and Cal’s Todd Bozeman marvel at Knight’s ability to always seem to find the right man with his passes.
And though he often scores on layups after steals, the 5-10 Knight has never dunked in a college game. Montgomery hasn’t seen Knight dunk in practice, either, though Poppink clearly remembers it happening.
``I’ve seen him dunk maybe once or twice on an alley-oop,″ Poppink says. ``He was more than excited about it.″