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Brink leads balanced effort by No. 2 Stanford women in 79-50 win over Norfolk State

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Tara VanDerveer prepares her Stanford players all season long for the bright March lights so that any one of the women on her roster is ready to shine.

Looking down the impressive stat sheet from the Cardinal's NCAA Tournament opener, the Hall of Fame coach could point to so many standout performances.

Cameron Brink had 17 points, 15 rebounds and blocked six more shots to add to her nation-leading total, and No. 2 seed Stanford beat 15th-seeded Norfolk State 79-50 in the first round of the tournament Friday night.

Kiki Iriafen added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Elena Bosgana scored a career-high 18 points and Hannah Jump had 13 with four 3-pointers for the Cardinal (29-5) as they looked determined and focused coming off a 74-61 loss to USC in the Pac-12 Tournament championship.

“We had really good balance with Elena, Cam, Kiki, Hannah Jump,” VanDerveer said.

With her teammates doing so much, Iriafen concentrated on doing all the little things while also reaching 1,000 career points.

“My teammates took over, it was their time to shine,” Iriafen said. “Tara always says it's always someone's game.”

Bosgana is finding her rhythm and feeling confident — and VanDerveer kept her on the court.

“I hope it stays,” Bosgana said with a smile.

“Me too,” VanDerveer replied.

VanDerveer insists Bosgana has been doing this in practice, so no real surprise to her team.

Diamond Johnson scored 19 points but missed all eight of her 3s for Norfolk State (27-6), which was held to seven points in the second quarter as both teams endured scoring droughts and trailed 32-19 at halftime. Johnson said after the game she dealt with severe leg cramping at the 5:29 mark of the fourth, when she was helped onto the bench.

Stanford advances to face seventh-seeded Iowa State (21-11) on Sunday for a spot in the Portland Regional after the Cyclones rallied in the second half to beat 10th-seeded Maryland 93-86 in Friday’s first game at Maples Pavilion.

Brink, the nation's No. 1 shot blocker who announced she would declare for the WNBA draft and not use her last year of eligibility for a fifth season at Stanford, blocked consecutive shots by Kierra Wheeler on the same offensive possession midway through the second quarter.

Stanford has been motivated all season to stay together for a special run this March after a shocking second-round defeat to Ole Miss at home in Maples Pavilion last year.

VanDerveer thought her team came out tight knowing it needed to win this one. So she offered a message at intermission:

“At halftime I said, ‘Let’s have fun and play, don’t put pressure on ourselves,’" she said.

Wheeler had 17 points, going just 8 of 23 from the floor for a Norfolk State team that drew top-seeded South Carolina in the first round a year ago and appreciated Dawn Staley's thoughtful words that the Spartans didn't play like a 16.

They hardly looked intimidated Friday, either.

The 5-foot-5 Johnson, averaging 20.3 points, regularly took it hard to the basket in spite of Stanford's huge height advantage and Wheeler insisted during Thursday's practice day she would keep fighting in the paint even if her shot got blocked — and she kept attacking.

Norfolk State — making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history — had the third-ranked defense in the country holding teams to 52.2 points per game while also notching 12.6 steals per game to rank fourth.

The Spartans brought a 15-game winning streak into the tournament.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say we weren't really disappointed with the result of the game," coach Larry Vickers said. “I'm so happy for this group to have this tremendous year that we had.”

BIG PICTURE

Norfolk State: Vickers served as an assistant coach for the Spartans' upset of Big 12 champion Missouri as a 15th seed against a No. 2, 86-84, in the 2012 first round. "You can’t go into any of these situations scared," Vickers said. ... The Spartans wound up 1 of 12 from 3-point range.

Stanford: Bosgana matched her season best with four 3-pointers. ... The Cardinal committed six turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 14, but took advantage of their length and athleticism for a 45-35 rebounding edge. ... The 6-foot-4 Brink has now blocked 115 shots this season.

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