March Madness: 5 takeaways from a thrilling Day 3 of the women's tournament

Eight teams punched their tickets to the Sweet 16 on Sunday in the NCAA women's tournament. There were multiple career-high performances, another dominant South Carolina win, a couple of upsets and an overtime thriller.

Here’s what stood out from the first day of the Round of 32.

No. 2 Stanford tops No. 7 Iowa State in instant classic

Stanford’s Kiki Iriafen and Iowa State’s Emily Ryan both had career highs in a back-and-forth overtime contest to end Sunday’s slate of games.

Iriafen finished with 41 points and 16 rebounds to lead Stanford to an 87-81 win, getting the Cardinal back to the Sweet 16. Stanford lost to Ole Miss in the Round of 32 last season, breaking a 14-year Sweet 16 streak.

Stanford was nearly upset again, thanks to Ryan, who finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Her career night came days after freshman Audi Crooks scored 40 points to propel Iowa State past Maryland.

Stanford needed every one of Iriafen’s 41 points, as teammate Cameron Brink struggled with foul trouble, eventually fouling out with 2:11 left in regulation. Brooke Demetre also stepped up for the Cardinal, hitting two 3-pointers in clutch moments. The first came with 1:32 left in regulation to give her team a two-point lead, and the second put the Cardinal up for good with 19 seconds left in overtime. She finished with eight points.

Despite the loss, there is still plenty for Iowa State fans to be happy about. Two of the team's stars, Crooks and Addy Brown are freshman — Brown finished with 18 points — and Ryan announced her plans to stay for a fifth year earlier this month.

Duke upsets Ohio State

In 2022, it was Creighton and South Dakota. Last season it was Ole Miss and Miami, and this year, 7-seed Duke got the second round upset by defeating 2-seed Ohio State 75-63.

It was just the second upset of the tournament after No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee State got the first in the opening round by defeating 6-seed Louisville.

The Blue Devils trailed by 15 points in the second quarter before outscoring Ohio State 65-38 the rest of the way. They earned their first Sweet 16 berth since 2018, and first in head coach Kara Lawson’s tenure.

Junior Reigan Richardson was the catalyst for the Blue Devils, scoring a career-high 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds — both well above her season averages of 11.9 and 2.3, respectively. Richardson was 3-for-3 from the 3-point line, with her most important make coming with 5:21 left in the game. It put Duke up 59-57 and ignited a 13-2 run that ended the game.

The Blue Devils won the free-throw battle, making 24 of 29, while Ohio State went 18-for-27. They also outrebounded the Buckeyes, 38-20.

It was an emotional game for Ohio State’s Celeste Taylor, who shared a lengthy hug with Lawson following the loss. Taylor came to Ohio State as a grad transfer this season after playing the previous two years at Duke. She fouled out with 6:38 left in the game.

South Carolina continues dominance

The last time South Carolina played North Carolina, the Gamecocks came away with a seven-point win. This time, South Carolina made a statement by defeating the Tar Heels 88-41 and earning a fourth straight Sweet 16, and 11th since 2012. It was also South Carolina's 59th home win in a row, dating back to the 2020-21 season.

The undefeated Gamecocks are seeking their fourth-straight Final Four, and second championship in the last three years.

The Gamecocks (34-0) are no strangers to lopsided victories, with only five games this season being decided by single-digits.They defeated Presbyterian by 52 points in the first round, and are beating opponents by an average of 30.9 points per game this season.

Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley continued her streak of dominance, with 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 22 minutes of action. It was her seventh double-digit scoring performance in the last eight games.

South Carolina had four other scorers in double digits. Kamilla Cardoso and Chloe Kitts each had 12 points, and Ashlyn Watkins and Tessa Johnson added 11 apiece. That balance and depth is what makes South Carolina the favorite to win the national championship.

Jada Walker and Baylor sneak past Virginia Tech

Junior Jada Walker scored a career-high 28 points to lead 5-seed Baylor past 4-seed Virginia Tech 75-72 on the Hokies’ home court.

Nine of Walker’s points came in the final 3:05 of the game. During that span she was the only Bear to record a point. She went 9-of-16 from the field and was clutch at the free throw line, making 9-of-10 attempts. The guard also had an and-1 in the final 19 seconds to help secure the victory.

Virginia Tech was without three-time ACC Player of the Year Liz Kitley, who tore her ACL in a conference tournament game against Virginia. Freshman Clara Strack started in her place, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Baylor’s win was the second upset of the day.

Pac-12 goes 3-0

The Pac-12 was the only conference to win all of its games on Sunday, with Colorado, Oregon State and Stanford all securing wins. The conference has a chance to put six teams in the Sweet 16, as UCLA, USC and Utah all play on Monday.

Colorado survived a close game with Kansas State and 6-foot-6 center Ayoka Lee. The Buffs were able to hold Lee to just 10 points, her second-lowest total on the season. Quay Miller led the Buffs with 10 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Aaronette Vonleh nearly recorded a triple-double with nine points, eight rebounds and seven steals. She was also the primary defender on Lee.

In a 61-51 win over 6-seed Nebraska, 3-seed Oregon State had three players in double figures. Talia von Oelhoffen led the way with 19 points and Timea Gardiner finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Raegan Beers added 10 points.