Date story published: Sunday, March 29, 1998
SAN ANTONIO - The Miracle Man wanted the ball, wanted one more chance, believed he had more heroics left in his holster.
Only six seconds remained on the Alamodome clocks. Kentucky was clinging desperately to an 86-85 lead in yesterday's Final Four opener.
UK's Allen Edwards was trying feverishly to inbound the basketball from his side-backcourt. Stanford was in a fierce denial defense. Finally, lacking any other options, Edwards looped the ball high down the floor toward the Kentucky basket.
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Arthur Lee couldn't believe his eyes.
The ball was up for grabs. And Lee had the inside track. Stanford's Miracle Man was poised to strike again.
It was Lee, the splendid junior guard, who had scored 13 points in the last 2:04 to rally Stanford by Rhode Island in the Midwest Regional final.
It was Lee who stripped Cuttino Mobley of the ball just 27 seconds from game's end to set up the basket that put the Cardinal ahead to stay and on the path to San Antonio.
Now, with a berth in the national championship game at stake, Lee eyed Edwards' arcing pass like a hungry lion eyes a wounded zebra.
"When the ball was in the air, I knew I was going to get it," Lee said. "I was already thinking about what I was going to do with it after I got it. I had time. I had time."
Except, this time, the Miracle Man was trumped.
As Lee circled under the basketball to make the steal, another hand appeared as if from nowhere to deflect the ball.
Tipping the ball ahead to himself, Kentucky's Wayne Turner saved possession for the Cats.
By the time Lee fouled him, only 2.1 seconds were left. Even though Turner missed both free throws, it was too late for out-of-timeouts Stanford to get a good shot.
"He jumped before I could," Lee said of Turner. "I had that ball. I had time."
Sometimes basketball games - even Final Four basketball games - turn on the smallest of things.
On a day when Lee came agonizingly close to shooting Kentucky out of the Final Four, all he could think about was the pass interception that got away.
"This game was so close," Lee said, "a little turn here or there and and the outcome would've been different. It was so close."
And the biggest reason that Kentucky could never shake underdog Stanford was the 6-foot junior from Los Angeles.
Lee came out bombing. He scored Stanford's first five points. He hit three of his first four three-pointers and kept Stanford ahead throughout the first half.
He finished the half with 13 points and staked Stanford to a 37-32 lead.
So much for all that talk about Stanford lacking Final Four experience.
"Arthur came out making huge plays," said Stanford center Tim Young. "He was hitting huge shots early. With him playing like he was, it gave us a lot of heart.
"He had so much confidence out there, the rest of us fed off it. We kept believing he would make a play. I thought it would be just like Rhode Island."
Lee tried. He buried a trey with 26.8 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 73 and ultimately send the contest into overtime.
With 2:11 left in the OT, Lee coolly sank three straight free throws after Turner fouled him on a three-point attempt. They pulled the Cardinal within 79-78.
It turned out, the foul shots were the last of Lee's game-high 26 points.
Still, he kept trying. With 15.4 seconds left, the Miracle Man thought he saw an opening for a trey that would tied the score at 85.
UK's Jamaal Magloire blocked the shot.
Yet, Lee still schemed, looking for one last miracle.
Then he had the miracle in his sights.
And Turner tipped it away.
"This game was so close," Lee said. "One play was so important. That's why it hurts so much."