Stanford 90, St. Joseph's 83

Sunday, March 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Stanford Cardinal ended their second-round NCAA funk — with their hearts in their throats, though.

The top-seeded Cardinal survived a scare from No. 9 St. Joseph's and its phenomenal guard tandem, winning a 90-83 thriller Saturday night to advance to the West Regional semifinals.

Stanford made all 10 of its free throws in the final 45.1 seconds, six by senior forward Jarron Collins and four by senior swingman Ryan Mendez, the nation's best free-throw shooter.

Hawks junior guard Marvin O'Connor tied his career high with 37 points, including five 3-point shots, before fouling out with 11.9 seconds left. He got a rousing standing ovation from the Cox Arena crowd — even the Stanford fans stood and cheered. St. Joe's backers chanted ``Mar-vin! Mar-vin!''

O'Connor's clutch 3-pointers helped bring the Hawks back from a 10-point deficit with 15:52 left, but they went 1:20 without scoring while Stanford padded its lead at the line, and they committed some crucial turnovers in the closing seconds.

``Wow, what an amazing player, an amazing performance,'' Stanford All-American Casey Jacobsen said of O'Connor. ``I tried everything on defense against him.''

Jason Collins scored 22 points and Jacobsen 21 for Stanford (30-2), which tied the school record for victories in a season. St. Joe's freshman guard, Jameer Nelson, added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks, who finish at 26-7.

Stanford can qualify for its second Final Four in four seasons without having to leave California. It advances to face fifth-seeded Cincinnati in the regional semifinals on Thursday in Anaheim. Cincinnati beat No. 13 Kent State 66-43.

Stanford matched the school record for wins set by the 1997-98 team, which finished 30-5 after reaching the Final Four.

It was after that Final Four — the school's first since winning the national title in 1942 — that its second-round problems began. First came an upset loss to Gonzaga, then a loss to North Carolina last year, when Stanford was the No. 1 seed in the South.

``To get past it, it takes a huge burden off our chest,'' Jacobsen said.

Added coach Mike Montgomery: ``It's a relief to me. Now I won't have to answer that question again.''

Still, the Hawks of the Atlantic 10 Conference almost sent the three-time Pacific-10 champions home early again.

O'Connor made three 3-pointers to key an 18-7 run that gave the Hawks their first lead of the game, 59-58. His 3 from the right corner with 10:42 to play pulled the Hawks within a point and sent the players on the bench leaping into the air and their fans into a frenzy.

Alexandre Sazonov made a layup the next time down the floor for the 59-58 lead.

O'Connor made two more shots, one a 3-pointer, and Damian Reid converted a three-point play for the Hawks' biggest lead, 67-62 with 8:25 left.

But Stanford came back behind seven points from Jason Collins, and soon it was the Cardinal doing the celebrating after a steal and fast-break stuff by Julius Barnes gave them an 80-76 lead with 2:34 to play.

As a timeout was called, Barnes' teammates mobbed him near halfcourt.