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Key 3s rally Cardinal past UF

©Associated Press
November 28, 2002

NEW YORK -- They lengthened the 3-point line by nine inches for the Preseason NIT, but it hardly disturbed Stanford's Matt Lottich.

Firing from 20 feet, 6 inches instead of the college standard 19-9, Lottich made two crucial 3-pointers to fuel the Cardinal's comeback against No. 7 Florida 69-65 Wednesday night in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT.

"Obviously we're pleased, and we probably surprised some people," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said.

Lottich also directed Stanford's zone defense, shouting out assignments. It helped a very young team.

"The zone is really helping us," Montgomery said. "It took them out of their press and we were very concerned about the press."

Florida used its speed to stay in front before Lottich's long-range shooting brought the Cardinal back. And when the game was up for grabs, junior Justin Davis made sure Stanford prevailed.

"Our front line has a lot to prove and a lot to work on," Davis said. "I wanted to go against the big guys, and I got my wish."

Florida coach Billy Donovan was impressed with Stanford.

"I liken them to last year's Arizona team which lost a couple of guys to the NBA and who people thought wouldn't be any good," he said.

They were, and it seems Stanford will be, too. The unranked Cardinal has beaten two ranked teams this season, including then-No. 11 Xavier in this tournament Nov. 20.

Stanford advanced to Friday night's championship game against the winner of the second game between No. 2 Kansas and North Carolina. Florida plays the loser in the consolation game.

Florida used the senior savvy of Matt Bonner and the freshman drive of Matt Walsh to lead for most the game. The Gators were up 53-45, their largest lead, when Lottich made a 3-pointer.

Then Rob Little, Julius Barnes and Josh Childress whittled away at the Gators. Stanford led 62-59 before Florida nosed back in front on a basket by Bonner and two free throws by Justin Hamilton.

Lottich responded with another 3-pointer and, after Bonner tied the score at 65, Little's inside basket with 18 seconds left gave Stanford the lead for good. After Anthony Roberson, who was 1-for-13 from the field, missed for Florida, Josh Davis hit a two free throws to seal the victory.

Donovan noted Roberson's troubles.

"He's got to learn if he's not making shots, he's got to do other things to help us," he said.

Little led Stanford with 18 points. Davis had 14 and 10 rebounds, and Lottich added 13 points.

Bonner led Florida with 19, and Walsh had 17.

Stanford opened with a five-point burst on a 3-pointer by Lottich and a basket by Davis. Florida came back with five straight on a basket by David Lee and Bonner's 3-pointer.

It went that way for most of the first half. Walsh's 3-pointer gave the Gators the lead at 14-11, and they widened it to as much as 33-26 on another 3 by Walsh.

But Davis, who had 10 points in the first half, responded with two quick baskets. After Bonner, who had 10 in the half, made a 3-pointer for Florida, Stanford's Little scored to narrow the lead to 36-32 at the half.

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