Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 8, 2010

Post players lead No. 2 Stanford women into basketball showdowns at USC, UCLA

by Rick Eymer

Jayne Appel and Nnemkadi Ogwumike have found a way for the basketball court, especially in the paint, to be big enough for the both of them.

Appel still ranks top billing but Ogwumike is becoming a star attraction of her own after a 24-point, 16-rebound effort in a 79-58 win over Cal last weekend. With a supporting cast that includes Kayla Pedersen and Joslyn Tinkle, this group has blockbuster of the year written all over them.

Now they're all headed for Los Angeles and the Hollywood stage of the Pac-10 Conference.

The second-ranked Cardinal (1-0, 11-1) is about to play a pair of meaningful games against USC Friday night at 7 p.m. and at UCLA on Sunday afternoon.

The Trojans and Bruins each swept a road series in Arizona last weekend, impressing the rest of the conference with the rare occurrence.

First-year USC coach Michael Cooper is no stranger to the coaching ranks, having served as a head coach in both the NBA and the WNBA. He coached the Los Angeles Sparks to a pair of WNBA titles and was a member of four NBA title teams with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Stanford and the Women of Troy (2-0, 8-5) played the two toughest nonconference schedules in the Pac-10. Stanford went up against eight teams that played in last year's NCAA tournament, including three Top-10 teams, and USC played seven teams that reached the tournament.

The Women of Troy has beaten three ranked opponents so far, including Arizona State, Texas and Mississippi State. They lost in overtime to Xavier and at Duke.

Stanford has been having trouble with keeping three of its point guards on the court this week in practice. Jeanette Pohlen, JJ Hones and Melanie Murphy have been unable to practice due to swelling in the area of previous injuries.

"We need to iron some things out offensively," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We've had some bright spots in the way Murphy and Ogwumike played last week but overall we're not playing as well as we want to be or how we need to be. We missed too many point blank shots and we should be able to implement things in our game by now."

Pohlen, who sustained an ankle injury against California but returned to finish the game, experienced swelling of her ankle. Murphy, who had just returned from five weeks off due to a knee injury, and Hones, who missed the better part of last season with an ACL tear, each had swelling in the knee.

VanDerveer considers all three to be minor setbacks and hopes giving them additional rest during the early part of the week will help.

Appel became the eighth player in Pac-10 history to record 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds earlier this season. She's at 1,798 points and 1,058 boards heading into the weekend. She's the Pac-10 active scoring and rebounding leader.

Kayla Pedersen is third among active players with 1,118 points, and second with 727 rebounds.

"I know Appel is good but when Ogwumike is playing like she has it's her team," Cooper said. "She's one of the top five players in the nation and that's the way she's playing right now. She creates different kinds of matchup concerns, she can run the floor and she's a beast inside."

Ogwumike ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage at .634 and leads the Pac-10 in scoring.

Stanford has won 14 of the past 15 meetings with the Women of Troy but are 5-3 in its last three visits to USC.

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