STANFORD, Calif. - Rosalyn Gold-Onwude got down on one knee and looked every teammate in the eye just before tipoff and gave one final, fiery pregame speech at Maples Pavilion.
As soon as the ball went up, she went to work.
Gold-Onwude single-handedly sparked top-seeded Stanford right into the Sacramento Regional semifinals.
The spirited guard from Queens hit a career-high seven 3-pointers on the way to a career-best 26 points and Stanford shot a sizzling 68.8 percent in the first half and rolled into a date with fifth-seeded Georgia next weekend with a 96-67 victory over eighth-seeded Iowa on Monday night.
"It was fortuitous that Ros found her three in this game. She was just on fire," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "This was Ros' night."
Gold-Onwude received a rousing standing ovation to celebrate her career night when she finally took a seat with 6:52 left. The fifth-year senior waved in all directions as she ran off the court to more cheers after the game.
Gold-Onwude knew this game was going to be about the guards and 3-point shooting - and boy did she come to play. The Cardinal made their first nine shots from long range before JJ Hones' miss with 3:21 left before halftime.
"For my final game at Maples Pavilion, I really couldn't have scripted it any better," she said. "I feel really special and happy right now."
Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Stanford's 24th straight victory since its lone loss at undefeated defending champion Connecticut back on Dec. 23.
Missoula's Joslyn Tinkle, a freshman for Stanford, had seven points and two rebounds in 11 minutes of action.
Gold-Onwude shot 9 for 13 - 7 of 9 on 3-pointers - in saving one of her best games yet for the biggest stage. Stanford wound up 11 of 18 from 3-point range and shot 56.3 percent from the field overall.
"You hope that a 30-percent shooter is not going to go 7 for 9 against you," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "For her to come out and make six in a row, she was feeling it. She's a senior and it was her last one here. It was a special night for her and we made it one to remember, that's for sure."
The Cardinal (33-1) also got 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks from center Jayne Appel and produced their highest-scoring half of the season in taking a commanding 61-34 lead at the break, thrilling most of the nearly packed house at Maples Pavilion. Stanford won its 46th straight home game.
"It really helps get the train moving to the national championship game, which is our goal," Appel said.
Kachine Alexander scored a career-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting to lead Iowa (20-14), which shot 7 for 23 on 3s after making 10 in a hard-fought first-round win over Rutgers - the Hawkeyes' first time advancing since 2002. Jaime Printy's airball 3 attempt midway through the second half summed up the night for Iowa, the Big Ten tournament runner-up.
Gold-Onwude knocked down back-to-back 3s to start a 21-2 first-half run that put Stanford ahead 45-18, then Iowa responded with a 9-0 burst only to see Gold-Onwude score five straight points moments later.
"I don't know if I've made six 3s in a game, but I do remember some good shooting games," Gold-Onwude said. "I would hit a shot but also my teammates were in my ear, like Nneka saying, ‘keep shooting, keep shooting.' They made me feel like a better player and it helped me a lot."
Stanford did plenty to help erase any bad memories from a 68-61 second-round loss at home to 10th-seeded Florida State three years ago. VanDerveer also got another chance to rest her regulars down the stretch so they will be fresh for Saturday's Sweet Sixteen game at Arco Arena.
The Cardinal were determined to get off to a quick start and slow down the Hawkeyes' perimeter threats - and they sure did. Gold-Onwude's swarming, in-your-face defense was as good as her shooting. The senior and co-Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year also dished out five assists.
Kamille Wahlin, Iowa's third-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game coming in, missed her initial five shots from the floor before scoring her first points early in the second half once the game had all but been decided. She finished with only four points, shooting 2 for 9 and missing all five of her attempts from long range.
Stanford sure played like a team poised for a third straight trip to the Final Four and a potential rematch with UConn in San Antonio.
"We're still standing today. They are, too," VanDerveer said. "It's looking good."