January 23, 2012

Freshmen assist in 73rd home win

Starting freshman point guard Amber Orrange had nine assists, and freshman forward Taylor Greenfield came off the bench to make four of her five 3-point shots as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Washington 65-47 on Jan. 21.

Given that each assist means at least 2 points scored and that the margin of victory was 18 points, one might argue that Amber was the difference in the Cardinal’s 73rd consecutive win at Maples. Of course, it’s never that simple, given the major contributions made by her teammates.

For example, senior forward Nneka Ogwumike led the team in scoring with 17 points to go with seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two steals. Less than halfway through the first half, Nneka moved into fifth place on Stanford's career scoring list, passing Nicole Powell, ’04. Now with 2,082 points, she is 5 points away from moving into fourth.

Sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike added 15 points plus 11 rebounds, one assist, one block and two steals. In addition to her 12 points, Taylor had one rebound.

In the meantime, Amber had 4 points plus five rebounds and four steals. Her 33 minutes on the court were the most on the team. During that time, she constantly pressured Washington’s point guard and others, bolstering Stanford’s defense. “Our defense was great,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told the Fast Break Club in a behind-the-bench session after the game. “This is a very good defensive team.”

“Amber had a great game,” associate head coach Amy Tucker told the crowd. Tara agreed. “I’m really excited about Amber,” she said. “She played great on our road trip.” Tara was referring to the previous week’s wins at Utah and Colorado. She also praised Taylor.

Freshman guard Alex Green was the guest after the game. She’s “probably our shyest freshman,” Amy said. Alex hasn’t been playing because she’s rehabbing from surgery for a torn Achilles. “Rehab’s going well,” she said, adding that she’s allowed to do some walking without her boot.

Other schools she considered before deciding on Stanford included Tulane, Kansas State, Penn State and Colorado State. Her favorite class is Spanish. Her biggest surprise at Stanford – “I had to talk more and do more interviews.”

“That’s a woman of few words,” Amy said as Alex departed.

Assessing the team’s overall performance, Amy said, “We gotta shoot better. … We need more energy.” The team shot only 30.3 percent in the first half but improved to 46.7 in the second half for a game average of 38.1. “The bar is very high. This felt like a step back today,” she said.

One fan asked Tara what her biggest surprise of the season has been. “The development of the young players,” she said. They pay close attention to the scouting reports by assistant coaches Kate Paye and Trina Patterson, while Susan Borchardt, strength and conditioning coach, keeps them in good shape.

It was a physical game that led to 18 fouls by Washington and 15 by Stanford. The Cardinal took better care of the ball with 12 turnovers versus Washington’s 22.

The crowd got a scare with about 8 minutes to go in the second half when Nneka fell under the basket, gripped her leg and left the court. However, she returned about 2 minutes later. She had been kicked in the shin, Amy said after the game.

Center Sarah Boothe, wearing a boot, didn’t play. She has a sore foot, and her status is day-to-day, Amy said.

Although Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, didn’t provide details, she said the team is going to Hawaii to play in a tournament the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The afternoon began with a fine rendition of the national anthem by the Fisher Middle School Choir from Los Altos. The group’s several dozen members were among a sizable youth fan base that included some 500 Girl Scouts.

Youth also was on view during halftime when the Mountain View YMCA Dancers performed. What some of the tiniest dancers may have lacked in precision they made up for in enthusiasm and cuteness.

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