Uploaded: Friday, November 16, 2012, 9:08 AM
No. 1 Baylor provides early test for Stanford
|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sophomore point guard Amber Orrange knows two things she didn't know at the end of last year. She knows she can be a leader, and she knows her midrange jumper will work wonders for her as the year progresses.
Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford's All-American post player, also knows a little something about Orrange. She may speak softly, but she can carry a big stick.
Orrange will be leading the fourth-ranked Cardinal women's basketball team into the mouth of a Bear on Friday when Stanford takes on top-ranked Baylor and the massively talented Brittney Griner at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Hawaii.
Baylor (2-0) is coming off a 34-point win over No. 6 Kentucky, which was held to just over 27 percent shooting. Griner recorded her 82nd consecutive double-figure scoring game and also had five blocked shots. She holds the Big 12 record with 606 career blocks and needs 57 to match the NCAA mark.
Stanford (2-0) beat Santa Clara, 92-57, on Sunday with Ogwumike scoring 22 points and the Cardinal shooting 63.5 percent from the field.
The defending national champion Bears provides Stanford with what Ogwumike terms a "gut check," or an early test to see how Stanford stacks up against the best team in the nation.
It will also give Orrange the opportunity to exhibit her new-found confidence and in running an offense that remains in a state of flux.
"I'm just going to play as hard as I can, play for my teammates and play for each other and go from there," Orrange said. "There's always room for improvement. We're always watching film, watching for things we can work on."
Baylor, of course, ended Stanford's season last year, 59-47, in the national semifinal game. The Cardinal played a tactical defensive strategy against Griner and plans to employ many of the same things this time around.
That means guard play will be important. In last year's loss, Orrange felt it was a matter of making a few more offensive plays.
"In Denver we did not hit our open shots," she said. "We have to hit our open shots. This year I'm sticking with things even when they aren't going my way. Last year I would have gotten down on myself. Now I'm just moving on and staying positive."
Ogwumike says Orrange has developed into a top-notch point guard, something she saw coming early.
"Amber is like my little sister. I keep her in a little bubble, and I don't want people to try and pop her bubble," Ogwumike said. "I think as long as we're looking out for each other, she'll do very well this year. Her confidence is high, her outside shot is going. Amber is our point guard, our leader. It's a different type of leadership Amber brings but it's one we like because she pushes us."
Josyln Tinkle, who scored 19 points against the Broncos, said Orrange gives the team an added dimension.
"Her confidence makes her super aggressive," Tinkle said. "She loves to pressure the ball, she can push the tempo of the game and she's an unbelievable leader. She can compete with any point guard in the country. She can shoot the 3, but usually doesn't, and loves to make the right play for the right player."
Orrange sat down with the Stanford coaching staff following last season and discussed ways to improve her game.
"The biggest thing was leadership and being more vocal," Orrange said. "Being a sophomore and being more comfortable around my teammates and knowing what the coaches want has helped me kind of pick up that role a little bit."
Even though she doesn't roar like a Ogwumike, Orrange can get her point across.
"She has a voice like a dog whistle, only certain people can hear it," Ogwumike said. "I can hear it and I know Tara can hear it. Then we amplify it."
Other keys to the game against Baylor will be the depth at the post position, with Mikaela Ruef and freshman Tess Picknell likely to spend time in the lineup against Griner.
"Right now Mikaela is in my starting lineup based on what I think she could do," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said Tuesday. "I'm going to have to see it this week. Mikaela has to number one just take care of the ball. She is working very hard in practice. She is physical. She understands basketball and a lot of times she's asked to guard some of the toughest people out there so I see her really helping us a lot. I also see Tess being able to contribute, and she's going to have to help us."
VanDerveer says facing Baylor this early in the season can prove beneficial.
"We always want to play a very challenging schedule and we want to know early on what we need to work on, areas where we need to improve," she said. "Our team is excited about it. It's not like you're going to end your season with one game. It'll be a game where we'll learn a lot about ourselves and it's a win-win. If you win the game, great, and if you don't win the game it's great because you played them."
The Cardinal also play Hawaii and Tennessee-Martin in the three-day tournament.
Ogwumike was named to the 2012-13 Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List, the Atlanta Tip-off Club announced Thursday.
It marks the third watch list that Ogwumike has been named to for a major national player of the year award. She was named to the Wade Watch list for the Wade Trophy as well as the preseason watch list of the John R. Wooden award prior to the start of the season.
Ogwumike is one of 50 players named to the Naismith list, and one of two Pac-12 players along with UCLA's Markel Walker. The Naismith Trophy will be presented on April 8, 2013 in New Orleans, site of the 2013 Women's Final Four.
Through the first two games this season Ogwumike has averaged 22.5 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting a scorching 67.9 percent from the field. She captured the fourth Pac-12 Player of the Week honor of her career thanks to performances of 23 points and 17 rebounds last Friday as Stanford extended its national-best home winning streak to 80 games with a 72-61 win over Fresno State, and 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting in last Sunday's 92-57 win at Santa Clara.
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