Alley-oops, spin moves, and three pointers, sophomore guard Amber Melgoza has it all.
In a losing effort to No. 16 Stanford, Melgoza scored 40 points, the most scored by a Pac-12 player all year long.
Her total broke a career high set against No. 8 Oregon early this year (31), and Melgoza powered an offense that put up 79 points against a vaunted Cardinal defense.
That same Stanford defense that was giving up just 58.3 points per game during the conference season struggled to keep up with the talented, possibly even All-Pac-12 guard.
“For me, it’s confidence,” Melgoza said. “When I start building up the confidence and I have a mindset of ‘no one can stop me,’ then I feel like I’m free. That’s kind of how I was feeling off the bat.”
It’s true, Melgoza plays on a team that has only won a single conference game, but her contributions for Washington have been absolutely stellar.
Her 17.6 points per game entering today put her at fifth overall in the conference in scoring, and second among guards. The next highest scorer for the UW is sophomore Mai-Loni Henson, who averages 9.4.
With no strong second option, Melgoza has often carried the scoring load for the Huskies this season, and that kind of production on top of a huge workload is incredibly impressive.
The only potential knock you could have on Melgoza’s game was her game-high seven turnovers, which were often caused because she was getting double or triple teamed at times.
“Most of them were because she was being chased by two players,” head coach Jody Wynn said. “They were very aggressive on her, she was trying to get away from them.”
But turnovers never deterred the 5-foot, 10-inch guard, who didn’t shy away when faced with superior size in the paint.
“I would say I’m a stronger guard,” Melgoza said. “So I know how to make contact, and then get up my shot as well. When I go in there, you can’t be afraid. You have to pump fake at them and let them try to buy at that, and that was something I did the whole game.”
Melgoza’s strength and aptitude for scoring inside among bigger, and often much taller defenders is just one of her skills that makes her stand out among the rest, and Coach Wynn recognizes that too.
“Amber’s been doing that her whole career,” Wynn said. “Since the time she was a little kid, she’s been going to the rim, she’s as tough as they come.”
Another one of those skills is her three-point shooting. She’s shooting 36.5 percent from long distance, and went 5-for-9 from long range in her performance against the Cardinal.
The three-point threat generates points off the dribble, as defenders have to face-guard her for most of the game, Melgoza’s dribbling abilities and shiftiness have caused troubles for Pac-12 defenses all year long.
And the best part? She’s just getting started.
As a sophomore, Melgoza has two more years of eligibility to refine her craft, and put together a kind of season like this with an older, healthier roster in the years to come, and her confidence definitely hasn’t waned, despite the losses this season.
“It’s definitely building each game, and each practice,” Melgoza said.
Given how teams defend her, and how well she has played and how easy she can score against the best the conference has to offer, Melgoza has definitely earned a spot on an All-Pac-12 team, despite Washington’s struggles.
She is one of the most dynamic guards in the conference, and hasn’t gotten the respect she deserves from all her hard work during the offseason, and the regular season.
Pac-12, you know what to do.
Reach reporter Alec Dietz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AlecCDietz