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ACCent Moves to Pac-10

West: Stanford becomes fourth team from conference to reach Sweet 16 after 72-66 upset of Wake Forest.


TUCSON — In the euphoria of the moment, Brevin Knight told a national-TV audience that the Pacific 10 Conference "is back!" Ah, the Pac-10 hadn't gone anywhere the last time we checked.

The standout Stanford point guard later said he actually meant the Pac-10 is better than ever. You can add Wake Forest to the list of believers.

On the court of a fellow conference member, Stanford qualified for its first Sweet 16 by upsetting Wake Forest, 72-66, in the second round of the NCAA West Regional on Sunday before 11,916 at the McKale Center.

Stanford also became the tournament's fourth Pac-10 team to advance to the Sweet 16--while ending the outstanding four-year career of All-American center Tim Duncan.

Knight admittedly got caught up in the moment, but who could blame him? "It seems that every year around tournament time, [the Division I men's basketball committee] isn't certain about how many Pac-10 teams should get in to the tournament," said Knight, who had 19 points and five assists.

"We're proving that we deserve respect, so this means a lot for our conference."

For Stanford as well. The sixth-seeded Cardinal (22-7) earned a trip to San Jose to face second-seeded Utah, which won the other game here Sunday against UNC Charlotte. Stanford lost to Massachusetts in the second round the last two seasons.

Stanford was the final team to advance to the Pac-10's Sweet 16 reunion, joining Arizona, California and UCLA. This is the most teams the conference has had advance this far.

Only USC, which lost in the opening round to Illinois, did not advance from the Pac-10, which also equaled its 1994-95 record of getting five teams in the tournament. UCLA won the national title that season, and Arizona State also reached the Sweet 16. In the 1980s, only four Pac-10 teams reached the Sweet 16.

"We felt our league was real strong this year," Cardinal Coach Mike Montgomery said. "There were seven teams we thought were capable of playing in this. The fact that five played and four moved on is proof."

Duncan is moving on as well--but to the NBA. The star center, and likely No. 1 overall draft pick, played his typically great game with 18 points, 20 rebounds and three blocked shots.

"I have no regrets about my decision to come back [for his senior year]," said Duncan, the tournament's all-time leader in blocks with 50. "I had a great time and I love my teammates. I'm never going to look back on this year with any regrets or ask myself, 'What if?' "

The difference for Stanford was its start. Stanford jumped out to early leads of 10-2 and 21-8 that surprised third-seeded Wake Forest (24-7) as well as Montgomery.

"To be honest about it, I didn't know we could do that," Montgomery said. "We just came out on defense and refused to let them score."

His Wake Forest counterpart was also impressed.

"They defended us better than I thought they could," Demon Deacon Coach Dave Odom said. "We did make a run, but it was too late."

Stanford led, 56-44, on two free throws by Knight with 5:34 remaining. But Wake Forest went on a 9-2 run, capped by guard Tony Rutland's three-point play, to pull to 58-53 with 3:24 left.

Following Knight's lead, Stanford stayed cool and made its free throws down the stretch as time ran out on Wake Forest and Duncan.

As the players walked off the floor, Knight pulled his good friend Duncan aside.

He had something important to say.

"I told him that he's the best player in America," Knight said.

"I just wanted to say that."

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