Stanford beats Iowa State in dramatic overtime win to advance to women’s Sweet 16

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

While Pac-12 Player of the Year Cameron Brink spent most of the night in foul trouble against No. 7 Iowa State, the No. 2 Cardinal headed to their other twin tower to take them home. After being limited to five scoreless minutes off the bench in the 2023 loss to Ole Miss, 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. Number 6 Tennessee.

There was nothing Iriafen couldn’t do. The conference’s most improved player scored all-around against Audi Crooks and the No. 7 Cyclones. She practiced jumpers. She engaged from a distance and flew past her defender. She posted and ended up through contact. Iriafen was also huge on defense, forcing first-round seed Audi Crooks to hit 3-of-21 shots while Iowa State collectively shot 12-of-27 on layups.

Stanford needed to get everything out of Iriafen in a game that was on the line for 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 was up 1 with 31 seconds left before a cold-blooded 3-pointer by Brooke Demetre proved decisive. Demetre collected the rebound after Addy Brown missed the potential equalizer on the next possession, and the Cardinal, and the nervous home crowd at Maples Pavilion, could finally breathe.

In what should become an instant classic, Iowa State dealt the first blow. The Cyclones went up seven in the first quarter thanks to hot shooting from beyond the arc and the consistent play of guard Emily Ryan, who hit three 3-pointers. Stanford put on the braces in the second quarter and squeezed enough offense out of Iriafen and guard Hannah Jump to pull within two, setting up a second-half barnstormer.

Ryan dazzled off the dribble and with his step-back jumper, totaling a career-high 36 points, although his 10 turnovers gave the Cardinal additional opportunities. While Crooks was stifled by Iriafen and Brink, fellow freshmen Brown and Jalynn Bristow didn’t bother, pouring in 25 points, including 10 in overtime.

Stanford found enough out of Iriafen’s production. Brink had five blocks in his 22 minutes and added eight points and eight rebounds. Jump was the focus of many Iowa State schemes (the Cyclones even threw a box-and-one to the super senior on one possession), but she kicked out every defensive mistake to score 15. Nunu Agara was tasked with guarding Ryan and was responsible for several of those 10 turnovers. And Demetre came up with the game-winning buckets, the only 3-pointers she’s made in the NCAA Tournament outside of garbage time.

Even with the game of Iriafen’s life, the Cardinal barely avoided major disappointment. Two consecutive years of folding on their home court, after being upset in the conference tournament each season, would have called into question Stanford’s toughness.

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

Neither team deserved to lose, but Stanford was a worthy winner behind Iriafen. Player VanDerveer could barely find minutes a year ago she rose to national fame with one of her best tournament performances in recent memory and she kept her team dancing.

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(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)