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Stanford overwhelms Montana State women in NCAA tournament first-round game

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NCAA Montana St Stanford Basketball

Stanford's Cameron Brink blocks a shot by Montana State's Darian White during their first-round game in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Friday at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.

STANFORD, Calif. — Taylor Janssen scored Montana State’s first points early in the second quarter of Friday’s NCAA tournament women’s basketball game. The 6-foot-3 sophomore tried to hit MSU’s first 3-pointer a few minutes later. Stanford’s Francesca Belibi stuffed it.

Belibi grabbed the blocked shot and outran Janssen down the floor. The 6-foot-1 junior took two long strides, rose and threw down a right-handed dunk. Maples Pavilion erupted.

The play encapsulated Stanford’s 78-37 first-round win Friday night on its home court. The top-seeded and defending NCAA champion Cardinal (29-3) used their impressive size, length, speed and skill to overwhelm the 16th-seeded Bobcats (22-13).

The game started on a good note for MSU. Kola Bad Bear forced a steal on the first possession, and Darian White rose for a mid-range jumper a few seconds later. A shot White would’ve gotten off over most defenders was swatted by Cameron Brink, Stanford’s 6-foot-4 third-team all-American post.

Brink, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, galloped down the floor and scored the first points of the game on a layup. She blocked another shot, this time from Kola Bad Bear, on the following possession. Once again, Brink followed it up with a fast break layup.

MSU put up a good effort defensively, forcing several turnovers and holding Stanford to a 44.6% field goal rate for the game. But Brink’s blocks set a foreboding tone — the Cats would struggle to get uncontested looks from anywhere on the floor.

MSU shot 0 of 20 from the field in the first quarter and trailed 20-0.

"I don't think I've ever coached a quarter where someone didn't score," said Stanford 36th-year coach Tara VanDerveer, the winningest coach in college women's basketball history.

Janssen scored MSU’s first points with 9:15 left in the first half to cut the deficit to 23-2.

But the Cats, who reached its first NCAA tourney since 2017 with a Big Sky tournament championship last week, didn’t looked fazed by the rough start or Belibi’s coast-to-coast show stopper or the many other difficult stretches of Friday’s game. For instance, they went on a 6-3 run right after Belibi’s dunk to cut the deficit to 34-12.

It wasn’t the most lopsided 1-versus-16 women’s basketball game of the day. Top-ranked South Carolina blew Howard out 79-21.

The 14th-seeded MSU men fell to Texas Tech 97-62 about six hours before the women tipped off. Before this year, MSU had never sent its men’s and women’s teams to the same NCAA tournament.

This story will be updated.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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