Sophomore Amber Orrange made up for All-American Chiney Ogwumike's struggles and hit the game-winner for Stanford in a 51-49 victory at KeyArena.
It was fitting Stanford’s most improved player saved her best for the championship.
With Cardinal All-American Chiney Ogwumike covered in a baby-blue blanket of defense, Amber Orrange unexpectedly took over. She scored a career-high 20 points to lead top-seeded Stanford to a 51-49 win against third-seeded UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament at KeyArena.
The final play was a storybook ending. The score was tied at 49 with 38 seconds on the clock, and the Cardinal didn’t have any timeouts. Orrange had the ball and looked to coach Tara VanDerveer to see when she wanted the sophomore point guard to drive. Fifteen seconds clicked off the clock, the Bruins’ defense getting tighter.
Orrange took off and made the game-winning layup with 8.3 seconds left in the game. After two Bruins attempts to tie failed, including one with two-tenths of a second left, the championship was sealed.
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“If this would have happened last year, I would probably have shut down and had a really, really bad game,” said Orrange, who was forced into playing more minutes this season due to junior Toni Kokenis being out due to an undisclosed illness.
“(This year) I was just thinking ‘I want to win,’ ” she said. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
It took a lot as Ogwumike struggled. She finished with a career-low three points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field with 10 rebounds. After the final horn sounded, Ogwumike spread her arms wide, tipped her head back and mouthed “Thank you” to the rafters of KeyArena.
“Coach told me with seven minutes left, ‘Chiney, you can’t do this by yourself,’ ” Ogwumike said. “After that, I knew it was Amber’s night.”
The Cardinal (31-2) solidified itself as a No. 1 seed and likely earned a slot in its hometown site for the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
And it discovered support players and a point guard it can rely on. That was revealed in the first half when VanDerveer benched Ogwumike, Orrange, and Mikaela Ruef with two fouls each.
UCLA (25-7) used their absence to go on a 13-5 run in the final 3 ½ minutes to reach halftime with a 27-26 advantage.
UCLA continued with its aggressive defense in the second half, but coach Cori Close’s rotation had nothing to limit Orrange’s timely plays.
The Bruins were led by senior forward Markel Walker’s 16 points.
It was the fourth meeting between Stanford and UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game. The Bruins’ only win in the matchup was 2006.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com