Home News Stanford faces NC State in Sweet 16 after Iowa State win

Stanford faces NC State in Sweet 16 after Iowa State win


Going into Stanford’s second-round game against Iowa State Sunday night, forward Kiki Iriafen stressed “throwing the first punch” in terms of getting off to a good start.

It didn’t happen, and it didn’t matter.

The Cardinal trailed 23-16 at the end of the first quarter, 33-31 at halftime and the No. 2 seed in its region was never able to completely separate from the No. 7 Cyclones until winning 87-81 in overtime in the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Considering the Cardinal got off to so-so starts against Cal, Oregon State and USC (a loss) in the Pac-12 Tournament and again against No. 15 Norfolk State in the NCAA opener before pulling away, it’s either a cause for concern or maybe just the price of doing business at this stage of the season.

On a wild night in the final Maples Pavilion game of her career, senior guard Hannah Jump reflected on a win over a difficult opponent in a game with 18 lead changes.

“I think we have been battled tested,” senior guard Hannah Jump said. “I think the Pac-12 tournament taught us we can come back from anything. The main thing was every time the lead changed we stayed together, stayed focus. We knew what we had to do to execute down the stretch and were able to put it out. I’m so proud of how hard we battled.”

It could be more of the same Friday when Stanford plays in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina State (29-6) in the Portland 4 Regional at the Moda Center. Now 30-5, Stanford is two wins away from its 16th berth in the Final Four and 10th in the last 16 seasons.

North Carolina State, the No. 3 seed, withstood a furious second-half comeback to beat No. 6 Tennessee 79-72 in Raleigh, N.C. on Monday.

Iriafen was the headline performer with a career-high 41 points, the first Stanford player to break 40 since Nneka Ogwumike scored 42 points in 2011 against Tennessee. Iriafen also had 16 rebounds on a night when senior All-American post Cameron Brink had eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Brink played a role in forcing Iowa State post Audi Crooks into a 3-for-21 shooting night just two days after going 18-for-20 and scoring 40, and other Cardinal players played supporting roles that were less sensational than Iriafen but nonetheless important to the outcome.

It enabled Stanford to withstand an Iowa State team that buried 3-pointers with regularity, hitting 12 of 19 attempts, with Emily Ryan (36 points) and Addy Brown going a combined 10-for-14.

“This is the type of game that you can learn a lot about your team,” coach Tara VanDerveer said on the occasion of her 100th NCAA Tournament win, joining the late Pat Summitt and UConn coach Geno Auriemma in triple digits. “I  mean, they battled, stayed with things. They stayed together.”

Stanford Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer talks to Stanford Cardinal's Nunu Agara (3) during their game against the Iowa State Cyclones in the second quarter during the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif., on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, right, has instructions for Nunu Agara Sunday night in a second-round NCAA Tournament win over Iowa State. Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

VanDerveer cited Stanford’s team-first mentality in feeding the red-hot Iriafen as well as moments where others stepped up when it mattered.

“People were like looking for her, getting her the ball,” VanDerveer said. “Very unselfish basketball and I love it.”

Brooke Demetre hadn’t taken a shot when she buried a 3-pointer for a 64-63 lead in the third quarter, and then had the Cardinal’s big shot in overtime with another 3 for an 83-81 lead with 18.4 seconds left. She also hit two late free throws.

Point guard Talana Lepolo, who has been struggling with her shot, stepped up and hit a 3-pointer for a 74-72 lead with three minutes left in regulation. She finished with seven assists and just one turnover. Freshman Nunu Agara contributed three points and five steals in valuable minutes off the bench.

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