AP Sports

Aziaha James scores 29 to lead N.C. State into the women’s Elite Eight with 77-67 win over Stanford

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Unrattled by Stanford’s halftime lead, North Carolina State answered with a big third quarter and shut down All-American Cameron Brink for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Aziaha James had 29 points and the third-seeded Wolfpack outscored the No. 2 Cardinal 28-10 in the third quarter and went on to win 77-67 on Friday night.

Saniya Rivers added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Wolfpack (30-6), who are headed to the Elite Eight for the third time overall and second time in the last three years.

N.C. State will play Texas on Sunday. The top-seeded Longhorns beat Gonzaga 69-47 in the late game Friday.

Brink fouled out with 8:10 left in the game. She finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks in her final game for Stanford (30-6). Kiki Iriafen led the Cardinal with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

“We just kept coming in the huddle and just saying, ‘Keep your head up. Don’t worry about our missed shots. Don’t worry about the foul calls. Just keep going. Play our game,'” James said. “I think we handled that very well.”

Stanford, under Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer, was vying for its 23rd appearance in the Elite Eight. They had reached that milestone in five of the last seven years.

N.C. State went on a 13-2 third quarter run capped by a pair of 3-pointers from James to go up 49-45. The Wolfpack led 55-47 going into the fourth quarter and led by as many as 15 points down the stretch.

James opened the final period with a 3-pointer that beat the shot clock.

“Aziaha was really clicking on the offensive end,” Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. “We kept going to her and she kept making big shots.”

Moore said he was proud of his entire team, winning “against a great team and Tara VanDerveer, who I have great respect for. Anytime you can win against them it’s special.”

The Wolfpack defeated Tennessee 79-72 in the second round in Raleigh. It helped erase the bad feeling from the season before, when the team fell to Princeton in the opening round.

The Cardinal needed overtime to get past seventh-seeded Iowa State 87-81 in a second-round game at home in Maples Pavilion. Iriafen finished with 41 points after Brink fouled out.

Brink, who is from the Portland area, has already announced that she’s declaring herself eligible for the WNBA draft, although she had one more season of eligibility.

“I feel like these four years, they say it goes by fast and you don’t believe them, but it really does. I feel like a freshman. I feel like I’m still a kid at heart and I’m sure Tara probably says that I still am,” Brink said, turning to her coach. “I am going to miss being coached by you even though I know you’re going to be in my corner for the rest of my life.”

Stanford was physical at the start. Brink had six rebounds and three blocks in the first quarter alone, but the Cardinal held a narrow 12-11 lead.

Hannah Jump led all scorers with 10 points in the first half for Stanford. Iriafen played just seven minutes because of foul trouble but had eight points and seven rebounds, and the Cardinal ended the first half on a 9-2 run to lead 37-27.

Brink picked up her third foul with 5:35 left in the third quarter and went to the bench. Soon thereafter N.C. State tied the game at 43 on Zoe Brooks’ layup before James made back-to-back 3-pointers.

“Watching their game against Iowa State we knew we could get their bigs in foul trouble,” Rivers said. “And just when we saw we got them in foul trouble, it definitely gave us momentum.”

Stanford was among five Pac-12 teams — most of any conference — that advanced to the Sweet 16 as the league’s days dwindle because of conference realignment. Earlier in the day, Oregon State earned a spot in the Elite Eight with a 70-65 victory over Notre Dame in the Albany Region.

Stanford and California both decided to join the ACC last summer, part of a collapse that left just two teams — Oregon State and Washington State — in a Pac-2. That will put the Cardinal in the same conference as N.C. State next season.

N.C. State’s men’s team, an 11th seed, beat second-seeded Marquette 67-58 on Friday night to also advance to the Elite Eight.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness


Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP

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