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No. 3 NC State storms back to stun No. 2 Stanford

Mar 29, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NC State Wolfpack guard Aziaha James (10) drives to the basket during the first half against Stanford Cardinal guard Talana Lepolo (10) in the semifinals of the Portland Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. — Aziaha James scored 29 points and North Carolina State stormed back from a 10-point deficit to overwhelm Stanford 77-67 Friday night in the Portland Region semifinals of the NCAA Tournament at Moda Center.

The No. 3 seed Wolfpack (30-6) outscored the No. 2 seed Cardinal (30-6) 50-30 in the second half to advance to the Elite Eight for a game with the winner of Friday’s matchup between No. 1 seed Texas and No. 4 Gonzaga.

James was brilliant in leading NC State to the come-from-behind victory. The 5-foot-9 junior, who scored 25 of her points in the second half, was 8 of 14 from the field, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 10 of 11 from the foul line. She had five assists and two turnovers in 35 minutes.

Kiki Iriafen scored 18 of her 26 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds for Stanford. Senior All-American Cameron Brink finished her college career with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots. She played only 24 minutes before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

NC State was 7-for-17 from beyond the arc while Stanford was 5-for-25.

Trailing by 10 points at the half, NC State closed to within 41-36 early in the third quarter.

Brink picked up her third foul with 5:34 left in the quarter and departed with Stanford in front 43-36. NC State quickly scored seven straight points to knot the count at 43-43. After a Stanford basket, James knocked down back-to-back 3’s to give the Wolfpack a 49-45 advantage.

Brink returned and was quickly hit for her fourth foul with 1:14 remaining in the quarter. Seconds later, Baldwin was whistled for her fourth personal. Both players left the game. NC State, outscoring Stanford 28-10 in the quarter, carried a 55-47 edge into the final period.

James sank what seemed like a dagger, burying a 3-pointer from well beyond the line with shot clock at one to give NC State a 58-47 lead with 9:08 to go. After the teams traded baskets, Brink was called for her fifth foul with 8:10 to go.

With the Wolfpack up 70-55 three minutes later, Iriafen quickly scored five points to trim the margin to 70-60. But the Cardinal could get no closer.

Brink had nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks as Stanford took a 37-27 lead into intermission. The 6-4 senior started the game 1-for-7 from the field but then made three shots in a row — including a 3 — to break open a tight game just before halftime.

Both teams started slowly offensively. NC State was 3 of 11 and Stanford 2 of 10 midway through a first quarter that ended with the Cardinal on top 12-11. They found the range in the second quarter, going 12-for-18 from the field while NC State continued to struggle, hitting 7 of 18 shots in the quarter.

Iriafen, who went scoreless and played only one minute in the first quarter, sank four shots to give Stanford a lift early in the second quarter.

–Kerry Eggers, Field Level Media

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