Melgoza is drawing comparisons to the greatest women's college basketball scorer in history after her 23-point explosion against Oregon set a school record for the most points in a quarter, topping Plum’s 20 from last season.
Amber Melgoza is not Kelsey Plum. Let’s start there and get that out of the way.
Washington’s 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, who has been the biggest surprise of the season for the Huskies, is 3,255 points away from reaching the former Husky star who set the NCAA all-time women’s basketball scoring record last season.
But last Sunday, Melgoza soared into Plum territory and is drawing comparisons to arguably the greatest women’s college basketball scorer in history after a scintillating performance in a 94-83 loss at No. 10 Oregon.
Melgoza scored 23 of her career-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, while accounting for all but five of UW’s points in the final period.
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Her 23-point explosion set a school record for the most points in a quarter, topping Plum’s 20 from last season.
It was only the second time a Husky other than Plum tallied at least 30 points since the 2015-16 season. (Natalie Romeo scored 32 points last year).
“I know who I am and I know when I get confidence — I don’t want to say no one can stop me, but I know I can get on a roll and do what I do,” Melgoza said. “In the fourth quarter when Fapou (Semebene) hit me for a 3 in the corner, I kind of knew I was going to get hot handed.
“I don’t know how, but I just knew. I kept telling the coaches, I’m going to get hot handed. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and my confidence just started building up and building up and things started falling for me. My mind was like I want to take over this game and see if we can get a W out of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Over her past five games, Melgoza is averaging 23.8 points while scoring no fewer than 18 in each contest.
Aside from Plum, Melgoza’s scoring streak is the highest five-game stretch since at least 2012-13.
“Amber is playing with a lot of confidence and allowing the game to come to her,” coach Jody Wynn said. “She’s taking better shots instead of just forcing the action like she did early on.
“She’s just playing beautiful basketball right now. She’s taking charges defensively. She’s trying to rotate and do the things that we’re asking of her. And then offensively, that rim is as big as the ocean. She feels like every time she touches it, that ball can go in.”
Heading into Friday’s 6 p.m. matchup between Washington (6-7, 0-2 Pac-12) and Utah (10-3, 1-1), Melgoza is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 while averaging 16.8 points. She’s shooting 80.9 percent at the free throw line and 43.9 percent from the field, including 30.9 on three-pointers.
Melgoza, who averaged 26.3 points as a senior at Santa Barbara (Calif.) High, has flourished under Wynn. The first-year UW coach prefers a balanced scoring attack and only had one player average more than 15 points in a season during her eight years at Long Beach State.
Wynn favorably compared Melgoza to former 49ers star Raven Benton, who ranks eighth all-time on the school’s scoring list.
“They’re both three-dimensional scorers,” Wynn said. “They can shoot the 3. They can shoot the midrange and they can get themselves to the basket or the free throw line.
“Amber has all of that and she’s got that killer instinct. She wants the ball in her hands.”
Melgoza, a three-star recruit according to ESPN, was mostly a spectator last season while Plum smashed career and single-season NCAA records.
“I learned a lot from Kelsey Plum,” Melgoza said. “She’s one of my best friends. I wanted to mirror what she does and learn everything she did, like her pregame stuff and what she does after the game to stay healthy.
“She’s been a huge role model to me and I really appreciate what she did for me. Sitting on the bench and watching her you can learn so much.”
Melgoza admits it was difficult not having a bigger role for a UW team that finished 29-6 and in the NCAA tournament. She averaged just 2.1 points and 7.9 minutes.
“It’s a total 180 now,” Melgoza said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to step on the court and show who I am as a player because I was kind of hidden in a way.
“I worked really hard this summer and that’s the one thing I wanted to show is this is who I am and this is what I do. I’ve trained myself to play at this level. Hopefully, this keeps going.”