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The Early Lead
Posted at 09:58 AM ET, 03/30/2012

Stanford’s NIT championship brings season full circle


The Cardinal went out on a high note. (Jason Szenes - GETTY IMAGES)
Ray Lewis is considered one of the master motivators in the NFL with his fiery pre-game pep talks, and during the offseason he stays sharp by giving motivational speeches.

Well, it might be time to raise his rate.

Two nights after Lewis gave the Stanford men’s basketball team a pre-game speech for the ages, the Cardinal crushed Minnesota 75-51 on Thursday night to claim the National Invitational Tournament championship.

On the same Madison Square Garden floor where Stanford coughed up a late lead in the NIT Season Tip-Off to lose to Syracuse, the Cardinal brought their season full circle.

“We were here before in the preseason and we fell short,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “And so we talked about this experience as how much have we grown: You know, to show we have grown, we’d have to win this tournament. And our kids, I think they rallied around that.”

Sophomore point guard Aaron Bright, who was pulled from the starting lineup in mid-February, had 15 points and six assists off the bench to lead Stanford, which beat its five NIT opponents by an average of 15.4 points per game. After edging Illinois State in overtime in the second round, the Cardinal cruised past Nevada and Massachusetts to reach the final.

“We know what it takes to win the tournament now,” Bright said. “We won five in a row and I think we are going to use this experience for next year and making a run at the March Madness.”

They may want to keep Ray Lewis’s number in the Rolodex, just in case.

Here’s that pep talk, in case you need a Friday pick-me-up.

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Ray Lewis helps spark Stanford into NIT final with pregame speech

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By  |  09:58 AM ET, 03/30/2012

 
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