Kiki Iriafen, Stanford aim to subdue NC State in Portland

Mar 8, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Stanford Cardinal forward Kiki Iriafen (44) drives the lane against Oregon State Beavers forward Raegan Beers (15) during the fourth quarter at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The top four seeds in the women’s NCAA Tournament all have advanced with a pair of home victories in the Portland 4 Region.

Expect fourth-seeded Gonzaga and second-seeded Stanford to have plenty of support from West Coast fans when the Sweet 16 gets underway Friday night in Oregon’s largest city.

Stanford (30-5) is scheduled to face No. 3 seed North Carolina State (29-6), followed by Gonzaga (32-3) against top-seeded Texas (32-4) at the Moda Center, home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.

After easily dispatching No. 15 seed Norfolk State 79-50 in the opening round, Stanford had the most difficult second-round matchup. The Cardinal were forced into overtime before defeating No. 7 seed Iowa State 87-81 as Kiki Iriafen scored 10 of her career-high 41 points in the extra period and Brooke Demetre made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left.

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

As for Iriafen, who stepped up after center Cameron Brink fouled out?

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

The Wolfpack, who were unranked in the preseason poll before rising to No. 3 by early December, reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the past six women’s tournaments. They routed No. 14 seed Chattanooga 64-45 in the first round before holding on to beat No. 6 seed Tennessee 79-72 after nearly squandering a 20-point lead.

Aziaha James scored 22 points and Saniya Rivers added 20 against Tennessee.

“I’m just proud of them for keeping their heads up,” Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. “They could have real easily let the pressure get to them.”

After cruising to an 82-42 victory against No. 16 seed Drexel in the opening round, the Longhorns defeated No. 8 seed Alabama 65-54 as Aaliyah Moore matched her career-high with 21 points to go with 10 rebounds.

Moore, who missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, played just one minute in the second half against Drexel.

“My team needed me today,” Moore said. “It was kind of just a choice of being smart, knowing when I need to be out there and when I don’t. I just made sure I got a good night’s rest. I came early, got treatment and was ready for the game.”

Freshman Madison Booker also scored 21 for the Longhorns, who are riding a six-game winning streak.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, defeated No. 13 seed UC Irvine 75-56 in its NCAA opener before pulling away late in a 77-66 victory against No. 5 seed Utah.

Kayleigh Truong scored 21 points and Yvonne Ejim added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who have reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015.

“These guys, they set their own goals and they want to break all these records that people at Gonzaga haven’t done before and you just have to remind them to check them off little by little,” coach Lisa Fortier said. “If you want to do things we haven’t done, we got to go one step at a time.”

–Field Level Media

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