Iriafen, Brink power women’s basketball to three victories over Thanksgiving week

No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12) won two hard-fought games to take home the Ball Dawgs Classic in their first road trip of the season. On Wednesday, the Cardinal defeated a spirited Belmont (2-3, 0-0 Missouri Valley) 74-55, in a game which was close until the last quarter. Stanford faced its second ranked opponent of the year in Friday’s final against No. 13 Florida State (5-1, 0-0 ACC), which it won 100-88 to secure its first silverware of the young season. 

Following Stanford’s impressive overtime win against Duke (4-2, 0-0 ACC), head coach Tara VanDerveer stressed pre-game that she wanted her team to be more aggressive defensively and take away three-point shot attempts. Her team answered her call early, as the Bruins went 0-4 from deep in the first quarter.

Stanford put up just 20 points in the first, their lowest tally of the season so far. Senior forward Cameron Brink was dominant on both sides of the ball, but an early foul saw her benched for the remainder of the quarter. Belmont scored twice in the last 50 seconds of the quarter to cut Stanford’s lead to 20-14. 

Stanford lost the second quarter 17-12 as three-point shooting faltered; even the usually stellar graduate student guard Hannah Jump was unable to convert any of her six attempts of the first half. Brink — so often breaking records and creating highlights — missed a free throw to snap a remarkable streak of 73 consecutive free-throws made.

She fell just two short of the Division I Women’s record held by Michelle Gaislerova of North Dakota State, who made 75 consecutive shots from the line between December 2018 and February 2020. Brink’s streak is even more impressive given that she struggled with free throws her freshman year, shooting only 65%. 

Stanford remained sluggish and limped into the second half with a slight 32-31 lead. Despite junior forward Brooke Demetre going two for two from three, the rest of the team was a miserable one for 14. The Cardinal’s talisman Brink — who only played six first half minutes due to foul trouble — stormed back in the third with 16 points to keep Stanford ahead 53-48. 

Stanford finally pulled away in the last 10 minutes, limiting the Bruins to just seven points. Brink was dominant on boards, and the Cardinal took advantage of their significant rebounding superiority — 52 to the Bruins’ 33 — to bombard Belmont’s basket and increase their lead. The Cardinal’s fluid ball movement was on full display (five players finished with three or more assists), while back-to-back triples from sophomore guard Talana Lepolo and Jump put the game out of sight.

Stanford won 74-55 to secure the chance to play for a trophy on Friday evening. 

“[Brink] had a great second half … I thought Kiki [Iriafen] had a really good game [too],” VanDerveer said. “I thought our fourth quarter was great. We started making some shots and we worked hard defensively.”

After Florida State defeated Northwestern (3-3, 0-0 Big Ten) 90-52, Stanford’s opponent was set for Friday’s championship showdown. The first half was a high-scoring affair, as both teams exchanged the lead and looked evenly matched. The Seminoles held a slender 34-28 lead after the first quarter, in which Stanford again struggled to find consistency from deep but improved overall on its field goal percentage from Wednesday’s game. 

Iriafen — who was named tournament MVP at the conclusion of Friday’s game — was electric in the final. In the first quarter alone, she recorded a score, an assist, a steal, a block and an offensive and defensive rebound, illustrating her well-roundedness. She recorded a double-double by the end of the first half, with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior guard Elena Bosgana played well, too, leading the team in the half with 16 points, a career-high.

Backed by these great performances, Stanford clawed its way back in the second quarter. The half ended with a highlight play as redshirt sophomore guard Jzaniya Harriel delivered a buzzer-beater from the arc to boost the Cardinal lead to 52-48.

Brink recorded three blocks in the third quarter, but her third foul forced her to sit again. She fouled out toward the end of the game, yet still recorded an impressive stat line: 19 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in just 16 minutes of play. 

Jump — again slow to get going — scored her first three shots of the half as the Cardinal grew its lead. A buzzer beater jumper by Iriafen increased Stanford’s momentum, cementing a 79-70 lead over the Seminoles heading into the fourth. Iriafen ended the night with a career-high 30 points after setting her prior career-high against Duke just last week. 

The fourth quarter was more routine for Stanford, as they kept the Seminoles at arms length to claim another ranked win. The game ended 100-88, with Stanford recording its first triple-digit tally of the season. 

“We got tired. We couldn’t defend them,” said Florida State coach Brooke Wyckoff. “We were outmatched in the paint, and then we weren’t able to get stops and get into our rhythm.”

After the team headed home to Palo Alto, a Sunday game against the Albany Danes — VanDerveer’s former team — awaited.

But there was no love for her alma mater on Sunday, as the Cardinal thrashed the Danes in a 79-35 blowout. Brink had 21 points and 19 rebounds, while Jump tallied 16 points.

The Cardinal began the game on an 11-0 run, but the Danes fought back to make it an eight-point game after a quarter. But in the second, Stanford put its foot on the gas pedal, extending its lead to 23 points by the half. The Cardinal cruised from thereon out, with their lead never falling below 20 points.

Up next, the Cardinal will head on the road to face San Diego State (4-2, 0-0 Mountain West) in Viejas Arena. Tip-off begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 1.