She's No. 2 in the 1-2 punch | January 20, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 20, 2012

She's No. 2 in the 1-2 punch

But Chiney Ogwumike is nonetheless a force to be reckoned with

by Rick Eymer

Chiney Ogwumike may yet find her way behind a microphone, hosting her own talk show, though she's a little busy with school and basketball these days. Talkative during postgame interviews on Stanford's student-run radio station, she's also letting her play on the court speak volumes.

The reigning Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week, her first such honor, Ogwumike has given the fourth-ranked Cardinal (6-0, 15-1 entering play Thursday night) a powerful inside weapon in conjunction with her older sister, Nnemkadi.

Chiney, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, averaged a double-double in Stanford's two road victories last week and has six on the season, including four in her past six games. The only reason she's not in the conversation for conference Player of the Year is because Nneka, who has 10 double-doubles on the year despite playing on a tender ankle, has played like a candidate for national Player of the Year honors.

The Ogwumike contingent — both of whom are on the watch lists of the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy — has scored 586 points of Stanford's 1,281 and grabbed 333 of the team's 745 rebounds.

Though not a two-player team by any means, the sisters have provided a dependable anchor for the Cardinal, which is seeking to extend its record home winning streak (at 71 before the WSU game) and its record winning streak against conference opponents (63) this weekend against Washington State and Washington.

Saturday's 2 p.m. game with the Huskies (2-3, 10-5) features a contest between schools that have won or tied for the conference title 23 times in the 25-year history of the Pac-12/10. Stanford has won or shared 20 of those titles.

Chiney averages 14.7 points and 10 rebounds, statistics overlooked only because Nneka averages 23.4 and 11.5. Chiney, though, has a better field-goal percentage at 58 percent, eighth best in the nation.

"She's relentless," Nneka said of her sister, considered the top recruit in the nation coming out of high school. "She does a really good job of being aggressive and that's one thing I try to emulate."

Since they've played against, and with, each other for so long, the Ogwumike sisters likely developed a similar style at an early age. At the very least they have such a kinship that often things go unspoken between them on the court.

"Nneka and I can just look at each other and communicate without saying anything," Chiney said. "I think we've learned a lot from each other."

Chiney began establishing her own reputation last year. Named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Ogwumike also earned recognition to the All-Pac-10 Team, All-Freshman Team and All-Defensive Team.

She earned a gold medal, along with Neka, on the USA team at the World University Games during the summer — setting the stage for the final collegiate season with her big sis.

Fortunately for Stanford, when Neka departs after this season, Chiney will be back for two more. It's a nice transition to have for a program that battles for national titles year in and out.

It's also a program that's not afraid to change. Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer shook things up last week and it paid off.

Junior forward Josyln Tinkle, fourth on the team with a 7.8 scoring average and third with a 4.6 rebounding average, and freshman guad Amber Orrange, third on the team with 42 assists, were inserted into the starting lineup on Stanford's two-game road trip in place of Lindy La Rocque and Taylor Greenfield.

Tinkle has made 21 of her 22 foul shots (95 percent) and is 6 of 16 from long range. Toni Kokenis scores at a 10.7 clip, leads the team with 56 assists and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4-1. La Rocque is also at 2.4-1 assists to turnovers while Orrange, who has a team-high 20 steals in 223 minutes, is at 2.1-1. Bonnie Samuelson has made 23 of 55 3-point attempts and is 3 of 11 otherwise.

VanDerveer has started eight different players this year. Jasmine Camp was a starter four times before a stress fracture ended her season in mid-December. Alex Green (torn Achilles' tendon) is also out for the year while Mikaela Ruef (foot) has not played since the third game of the season.

Nneka Ogwumike, seventh on the all-time scoring list with 2,033 points entering the game against Washington State, will likely continue her climb up the career rankings. She needs five points to match Jeanne Ruark Hoff's sixth-place total of 2,038 and 29 to move into a tie with Nicole Powell.


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