By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Chiney Ogwumike said it best following Stanford's less-than-artful 65-44 victory over visiting Utah in a Pac-12 contest Friday night.
"Every game we need to have someone step up," she said. "This time it was Jaws. She wants to be a leader and does so by her actions."
'Jaws' is an affectionate nickname for Cardinal senior Joslyn Tinkle, more a play on words than an indication of either her personality or her dietary choices.
Tinkle has been one of Stanford's steadiest contributors. She's reached double figures in scoring 14 of the team's 19 games and grabbed at least seven rebounds on seven occasions. Only Ogwumike has been consistently better and that's why she's an All-American.
Still, it begs the question. Can Stanford count on anyone else to fill the important role of taking pressure off Ogwumike? She's reached double figures in scoring in every game, and if she didn't, the sixth-ranked Cardinal (6-1 in the Pac-12, 17-2 overall) would be in serious trouble.
"Here we are, getting into the thick of the Pac-12 season, and I know I have to be more aggressive and rebound better to take the pressure off Chiney," said Tinkle, the only senior listed on the roster.
"I'm just glad Chiney and Jos came to the game tonight," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Otherwise it would have been tough. We're trying to get more people involved but we really struggled on the perimeter. It was the Chiney-Jos show and they really got it done."
The importance of being Chiney and Jos, at least against the Utes, can be expressed with cold, hard statistical analysis. They combined for 60 percent of Stanford's offensive production, exactly half the team's rebounds and shot .625 from the field.
It was left to the other nine or 10 players who saw the court for more than a minute to take care of the other 40 percent of points and 50 percent of the boards. Outside of Ogwumike and Tinkle, Stanford shot the ball at a .263 success rate and no one else scored more than six points.
The game might had played out differently had the Utes not been unlucky in travel and health.
Utah's plane was grounded Thursday in Salt Lake City because of ice, and it was delayed again on Friday morning. The Utes finally touched down at 2 p.m. for the 7 p.m. tipoff.
Ten minutes into the game, Utah's 6-foot-3 junior forward Taryn Wicijowski, sixth in the conference in scoring, left the game with a right knee injury; the same location of a torn ACL that forced her to sit out a season.
She went up for a layup and crumbled to the ground, apparently hurting it "just pivoting" according to Utah coach Anthony Levrets. It took a few minutes to attend to her.
"She's a big part of that team," VanDerveer said. "You could see they were a little deflated. You never want to see someone get hurt like that."
Losing Wicijowski made it even more difficult for the Utes to find a way to slow down Ogwumike, who has 14 double-doubles on the season and three straight. She had one point and three rebounds when Wicijowski left the court.
Ogwumike finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Tinkle, who had a streak of eight consecutive 3-pointers end with her second attempt Friday night, finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Stanford, which led 35-19 at halftime, has held its last 37 opponents to under 70 points. The Cardinal hosts Colorado at 4 p.m. Sunday. The 20th-ranked Buffaloes took California to the wire Friday night before losing, 59-56.