'She's a warrior': Iriafen nets 41 as Stanford wins

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STANFORD, Calif. — Kiki Iriafen hit midrange jumpers from every possible spot. She took the ball hard at the hoop and right at star Iowa State freshman Audi Crooks, then blocked Crooks’ path on the defensive end.

Iriafen crashed the boards and converted all nine of her free throws — and Stanford needed every bit of Iriafen’s heart and guts to outlast Iowa State.

“She’s a warrior out there,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She gave an All-American performance out there tonight.”

Brooke Demetre hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime and Iriafen scored 11 of her career-high 41 points in OT, securing No. 2 seed Stanford a place in the Portland Regional with a thrilling 87-81 win over the seventh-seeded Cyclones in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday night.

At 70 years old and having become the winningest coach this year, VanDerveer noted, “This is why you do this.”

“This is the type of game you learn a lot about your team,” she said. “They battled, they stayed with things, they stayed together.”

Addy Brown made a 3 from the top of the arc with 31 seconds left in OT to put Iowa State ahead, only for Demetre to answer from nearly the same spot moments later. Six of Demetre’s eight total points came on timely 3s, and she also hit two free throws with 11.7 seconds left to help seal it.

Iriafen shot 16-for-30.

“Kiki Iriafen, whoa!” VanDerveer said afterward.

Iriafen converted a three-point play with 3:41 left in overtime after drawing the fifth foul on Crooks and also contributed 16 rebounds and three blocks. Talana Lepolo added a 3 in the extra period, and Iriafen had a go-ahead baseline jumper with 1:59 to go before scoring again the next time down.

“This was a heavyweight fight, we had a great fighter out there,” VanDerveer said.

The Cyclones’ Emily Ryan hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:45 to play, another 3 in overtime and tying free throws with 1:03 left in OT to finish with 36 points in her gutsy, spectacular finale.

Crooks had made 18 of 20 shots in her career-best 40-point performance to spark Friday’s comeback win over Maryland, when the Cyclones trailed by 20. On Sunday, though, she missed her first three shots and fouled out with 10 points on just 3-of-21 shooting.

“We have our own 40-point scorer,” VanDerveer said.

On a night Cardinal forward Cameron Brink never got in rhythm because of foul trouble, Iriafen did a little bit of everything to help Stanford (30-5) advance while still feeling the sting of a heartbreaking 54-49 loss to Ole Miss in the second round at Maples Pavilion last March.

Iriafen defended as Crooks missed a layup with 14 seconds remaining in regulation that would have given Iowa State (21-12) the lead, and Stanford got the ball with 11.5 seconds left. Then Iriafen missed a jumper over Crooks just before the final buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime at 66-all.

“She’s super talented,” Ryan said of Iriafen. “She had one of those nights tonight. There wasn’t much we could do to stop her.”

The teams headed into the final 10 minutes tied at 50, and the game featured 18 lead changes and 12 ties.

Brink had eight points, eight rebounds and five more blocked shots to bring her nation’s-best total to 120.

The Cardinal had reached 14 straight Sweet 16s before last year’s exit — marking just the second time in 16 years Stanford lost in the first or second rounds and first since No. 10 seed Florida State shocked the fifth-seeded Cardinal 68-61 at Maples Pavilion in the second round exactly 16 years ago to the day on March 19, 2007.

Stanford was tested to the wire again.

“We gave them everything we had,” Brown said.

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