SEATTLE — The worst scoring game of Chiney Ogwumike’s career became proof that No. 4 Stanford goes beyond just its All-American.
Don’t forget about sophomore guard Amber Orrange.
Orrange capped a career-high 20-point performance by scoring on a spinning drive with 8.3 seconds to go, and No. 4 Stanford won its seventh consecutive Pacific-12 Conference women’s basketball tournament title by rallying past No. 14 UCLA, 51-49, at KeyArena on Sunday night.
Orrange scored 10 of Stanford’s final 12 points as the teams exchanged the lead seven times in the second half.
Orrange’s drive pulled Stanford even at 47 with 1:38 to go. Mikaela Ruef’s basket with 50 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead and, after Markel Walker scored for UCLA, Orrange spun through two defenders for the winner.
It’s a shot she practices regularly and executed with perfection to all but assure the Cardinal yet another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Perhaps more importantly, Stanford passed a gritty test before the NCAA tourney arrives.
“Our team had to grit it out and quite honestly we haven’t had to do that a lot during this year,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We learned a lot about ourselves. I think we’ll just be better because of this experience.”
Orrange’s 9-for-15 shooting included 7-for-11 accuracy in the second half, and she was the only Stanford player in double figures, making up for Ogwumike, who was held to a career-low three points and missed eight of her nine shots. Orrange never left the floor in the second half, playing all 20 minutes and coming up with key plays.
“I was just thinking, I want to win. I want to win. I’ll do whatever it takes,’” Orrange said. “I just looked for opportunities to take chances on plays on offense and defense and luckily it worked out.”
Ogwumike’s struggles were stunning after two memorable performances to open the conference tournament. She had 48 points and 40 rebounds combined in the first two games, yet was a complete non-factor offensively Sunday. She failed to score for the final 38 minutes. Wherever Ogwumike roamed around the paint, she was surrounded by two or three UCLA defenders.
It was a perfect game plan executed by UCLA that almost ended the Cardinal’s run atop the conference tournament.
Walker led UCLA (25-7) with 16 points. The Bruins lost to Stanford in the title game for the third time in four seasons.
“We’re hurting right now. My heart just hurts for our seniors,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I felt they gave so much of themselves in that game today. Hard for them not to be rewarded with the win at the end.”
UCLA rallied from an 11-0 deficit to lead 27-26 at halftime after missing its first 12 shots and 20 of its first 22. That lead increased to 42-35 with 9:02 remaining after Ogwumike was called for traveling and Alyssia Brewer scored on a pick-and-roll.
UCLA had its six-game winning streak snapped and lost to Stanford for the 16th consecutive time.
“I feel like this whole weekend is something we can go back on and feel we accomplished something,” Walker said. “We saw something in us we didn’t know we had. The only thing we have to do is go on and see what’s next.”