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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Easy Win Gives Stanford Several Second Thoughts

March 16, 2001|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — That's one small North Carolina school down and one giant North Carolina memory left to erase.

Stanford's 89-60 victory over North Carolina Greensboro on Thursday before a crowd of 10,442 at the Cox Arena went as expected, the top-seeded team in the West Regional crushing the 16th-seeded with imposing players and a detached resolve.

The good news for Stanford: No one got hurt, scared, tested or excited.

North Carolina Greensboro found out what other Cardinal opponents have discovered: Stanford (29-2) has two twin-tower centers, Jarron and Jason Collins, and trying to stop both is usually a losing proposition.

The spunky Spartans shut down Jarron Collins, holding the senior to one basket and eight points.

Unfortunately, brother Jason broke loose for 25 points, eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 27 minutes.

Jason had 20 points at the half to help his team to a 21-point lead at intermission.

The second half was an exercise to clear the Stanford bench and perhaps Cardinal players' minds.

Because now it's on to NCAA Round 2, on Saturday, against ninth-seeded St. Joseph's, a winner Thursday against Georgia Tech.

Winning first-round NCAA games has not been a problem for Stanford--the Cardinal has now won seven in a row.

But Round 2 has sometimes been more like a water obstacle in a steeplechase.

In 1995 and 1996, Stanford lost in the second round to Massachusetts. In 1997 and 1998 the Cardinal busted through to the Sweet 16 and Final Four, respectively, but in 1999 lost to Gonzaga in the second round and again in the second round last year to North Carolina.

"I don't think there any skeletons in the closet, there aren't any ghosts we're worried about," Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery said of the so-called second-round jinx. "I think they're looking forward to the challenge."

First, a quick look back.

Stanford was top-seeded in the South last year before falling to eighth-seeded North Carolina, 60-53, at Birmingham, Ala.

Guard Mike McDonald remembers it was a long trip home, and not only because travel delays literally made it an 11-hour trip.

"There was a lot of shock," McDonald said. "People thought it was a dream, that we'd be back at practice Monday. It's a feeling I don't want to feel again."

Sophomore guard Casey Jacobsen, who made five of his six shots Thursday and finished with 14 points, went two for 12 in last year's North Carolina loss.

It's a good bet Jacobsen, everybody's All-American this year, will be first man at the gym Saturday.

"I'm so confident going into the Saturday game because I know I'll play better than I did last year," Jacobsen said. "Because I can't play worse. That was the worst game I've played in my Stanford career. Anything I do Saturday will be better than I did."

Jacobsen said he wanted to watch film of last year's North Carolina defeat just to get him motivated.

The Greensboro win was more of a dress rehearsal than a test, a chance to unwind a bit and an opportunity to expose freshman forward Justin Davis' tender left ankle to tournament competition.

After playing only eight minutes in Stanford's last four games, Davis limped through six minutes Saturday, four in the first half and two in the second.

He missed both shot attempts and spent the end of the game on the bench, an ice pack strapped to his ankle.

When the season began, Davis and Curtis Borchardt figured to give the Cardinal incredible depth on the front line, but Borchardt has already been lost for the season because of a foot injury and Davis hasn't been a factor in a month.

Asked if he was encouraged by Davis' return, Montgomery said flatly: "Not really."

He said it was the doctor's idea to let Davis test the injury, described as irritated cartilage.

"His theory was we needed to find out today how the foot would react to minutes," Montgomery said of the doctor's suggestion to play Davis. "But it wasn't a very impressive debut. But maybe this gets him over the hump."

Davis said his ankle was at 85%, but that might be optimistic.

"I'm not jumping off the left ankle at all," he said. "I try to land right, then left. I'm always off balance."

If Davis can't contribute Saturday, Stanford's depth will be an issue against St. Joseph's.

When Stanford played Arizona two weeks ago, Jason Collins picked up three fouls early and the Cardinal lost by a point.

"I know I need to be on the floor as much as possible," Jason said. "I can't get in early foul trouble."

North Carolina Greensboro, champions of the Southland Conference, finished the season 19-12.

Junior forward David Schuck led the Spartans with 16 points, while guard Ronnie Taylor added 15.

"This is a powerful team," Greensboro Coach Fran McCaffery said of Stanford.

Powerful yes, but deep enough to go all the way?

St. Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli is already laying the underdog foundation for Saturday's second-round game.

"They have the tallest smart guys in America," he said of Stanford's Collins twins. "All our big guys are dumb."

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