Most Unsung Gets It Done For Cardinal
By Kevin Danna
Stanford defeated California 77-62 in the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament title game, and the usual suspects shone brightest for the Cardinal: Cyprus sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. The two combined for 46 points and 24 rebounds and Nneka was rightfully named the tournament MVP after dropping in 29 against the Golden Bears, including hitting her first three three-pointers of the season.
But the Ogwumikes weren't the only reasons for Stanford's sixth consecutive conference tournament championship. In order to knock off Gottlieb's Group, Stanford would need to have strong guard play - just what the team received from freshman point Amber Orrange.
Her game is quiet and sound, much like her demeanor. She doesn't make the flashy pass; she makes the right pass. That's exactly what happened in the first minute of the game - instead of pushing ahead and trying to make the high-risk play, Orrange held things up at the right wing, allowing Toni Kokenis to fill in for an open three to draw first blood.
She rarely makes mistakes with the rock, with only two turnovers in 28 minutes as one of the two primary ballhandlers. When the ball isn't in her hands, she is still telling others where they need to be on the court, making sure the offense runs smoothly as she points and guides.
And then, of course, there is her scoring ability. Orrange came into today averaging just under four points per game, but she's been looking for her shot a lot more in the past few weeks. Her mid-range had been much more accurate lately, her driving capabilities just as effective. Now it was time to display her talents on a national stage.
Cal was hanging tough in the second half, down 11 with the chance to get it back into single digits off an in-bounds play. Orrange thought otherwise, however, stealing the entry pass and leading the 2-on-1 break with Chiney Ogwumike.
But spearheading the fast break is no walk in the park, especially for a freshman. A split-second decision must be made, and with Orrange penetrating the key, she needed to choose her option right away.
"I got this, Chiney," Orrange said as she stopped, popped and dropped from 12 feet. She wasn't done, either, twice driving to the hoop and finishing through contact to get the and-one opportunity in the second half to help her team pull away from a very solid Cal team. By game's end, the freshman from Houston had 13 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals.
"We got great games from Nneka and Chiney, but the big difference for us is how Amber played," Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game. "I thought she really stepped up big on the big stage, knocked down her free throws, took the ball to the basket, ran our team, and worked hard defensively."
The Ogwumike sisters are all-world players, but they will need help from their perimeter teammates like Orrange if they want to push past the barrier of "just" making the Final Four.