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Stanford beats Iowa State in dramatic overtime win

For the second consecutive NCAA tournament, the Stanford Cardinal faced a fourth-quarter deficit on their home court in the second round, raising the possibility of a stunning upset.

As Pac-12 Player of the Year Cameron Brink spent most of the evening in trouble against No. 7 Iowa State, Cardinal #2 turned to their other twin tower to lead them home. After being limited to five scoreless minutes off the bench in the loss to Ole Miss in 2023, Kiki Iriafen scored 41 points, tied for ninth all-time in a single NCAA Tournament game, and added 16 rebounds and four assists, leading Stanford to an 87–81 overtime victory. The Cardinal advanced to the Sweet 16 to face the winner of No. 3 NC State vs. No. 6 Tennessee.

There was nothing Iriafen couldn’t do. The conference’s Most Improved Player scored in every direction against Audi Crooks and the No. 7 Cyclones. She pierced riders. She faced from distance and passed her defender. She posted and finished by contact. Iriafen was also massive on defense, forcing first-round darling Audi Crooks to shoot 3 of 21 as Iowa State collectively shot 12 of 27 on layups.

Stanford needed everything from Iriafen in a game that lasted 45 minutes. Neither team led by more than two possessions after the first quarter. There were 12 ties and 18 lead changes, and Iowa State led by 1 with 31 seconds left before a cold-blooded 3-pointer from Brooke Demeter proved decisive. Demeter collected the rebound after Addy Brown missed the potential tying bucket on the ensuing possession, and the Cardinal – and the nervous Maples Pavilion crowd – were finally able to breathe.

In what should become an instant classic, Iowa State delivered the first blow. The Cyclones went up by seven points in the first quarter thanks to hot shooting from beyond the arc and consistent play from the senior guard. Emily Ryan, who conceded three triples. Stanford went all out in the second quarter and managed to get just enough offense from Iriafen and the shooter. Hannah jumps pull in two, installing a barn burner of a second half.

Ryan was dazzling off the dribble and with her jumper, totaling a career-high 36 points, although her 10 turnovers gave the Cardinal additional opportunities. While Crooks was bottled by Iriafen and Brink, freshmen Brown and Jalynn Bristow were not bothered, collecting 25 points, including 10 in overtime.

On the other side, Stanford found just enough outside of Iriafen’s production. Brink had five blocks in 22 minutes and added eight points and eight rebounds. Jump was the focus of many of Iowa State’s schemes — the Cyclones even threw a box-and-one to the super senior on one possession — but she pounced on every defensive miscue to score 15. Nunu Agara was responsible for defending Ryan and was responsible for several of those 10 turnovers. And Demeter invented clutch buckets, the only 3-point baskets she ever made in the NCAA Tournament outside of trash time.

Even with Iriafen’s play of his life, the Cardinal narrowly avoided a huge disappointment. Two straight years of retreating to their home court — after also being upset in the conference tournament each season — would have cast doubt on Stanford’s toughness.

Instead, coach Tara VanDerveer and her staff managed to push the right buttons to keep Iriafen going and optimize their bench. Huge shooting from both ends prevented either team from building a sizable lead, but the important takeaway for the Cardinal was that when they needed to execute offensively, they were able to.

Neither team deserved to lose, but Stanford was a worthy winner behind Iriafen. The VanDerveer player who barely found minutes a year ago catapulted herself into the national spotlight with one of the best tournament performances in recent memory and had her team dancing.

Required reading

(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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