The importance of a good point guard is evident, even to the most casual of basketball fans.
The floor general, or quarterback of the team, knows where each person is supposed to be on the floor and orchestrates the offense. That means not only working the ball from side to side until it finds the open player but also directing teammates where to be from time to time in order to set up a successful possession.
For No. 8 Baylor, that point guard is Kristy Wallace. The senior finished with eight assists and zero turnovers as the Lady Bears routed North Dakota, 105-43, Tuesday night inside the Ferrell Center. Two days prior, Wallace finished with seven dimes and no turnovers in Baylor’s win over then-No. 16 Stanford.
“That’s a big deal, to take care of the ball,” Wallace said. “And that’s something I aim for every game, just to take care of it and try to get it to my teammates where they want it and where they’re the most comfortable.”
While her nifty passes and ability to get her teammates the ball at the right time is easily quantifiable on the stat sheet. She’s now produced 47 assists for a Baylor team that entered Tuesday’s contest third in the country in total assists (187) and second in the nation in assists per game (23.4).
But what won’t be found on the final box score, and can be difficult for some to spot, is how Wallace directs her teammates in the half court. Always encouraging, never demeaning, Wallace moves the pawns for Baylor on both ends of the floor.
“Well, I told Kristy and I think I told you guys after the Stanford game, that might have been her finest game at Baylor,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “She’s won some bigger games or more meaningful games for us. But just her solid performance on both ends of the floor. She took care of the ball, she was active on defense, and she did it again tonight.”
While Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown, who finished with 21 and 15 points, respectively, against the Fighting Hawks, go to work on the inside, it’s been Wallace who has helped them get touches, either by passing it in directly to them or making sure the ball is at the right spot on the perimeter where it can be passed it at a successful angle to the Lady Bear bigs inside.
She’s also been a good example for freshman Alexis Morris. Morris finished with a team-high 30 minutes on Tuesday, putting up 15 points.
“As a senior, you want (Kristy) to be a great leader, captain and also that leader for Alexis Morris to teach her the ropes,” Mulkey said. “And I just think you’re seeing it happen, and I couldn’t be happier for a young lady.”
Wallace and Morris combined for 11 assists and zero turnovers on the night. Overall, Baylor finished with 25 assists to seven turnovers.
“Alexis has done well for a freshman,” Mulkey said. “She’s played a lot of minutes to only have one turnover. When you play, I don’t care who you play, when your two primary ball handlers, your point guards, have one turnover total, I like that. I think it adds to her confidence.
“She doesn’t lack for confidence. She’s a special player. She’s really helping our basketball team.”
While the Lady Bears took care of the ball behind the play of Wallace and Morris, Natalie Chou had a big night against North Dakota. The sophomore finished with her first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Chou played all over the floor for the Lady Bears on Tuesday night. The 6-foot-1 guard played on the perimeter as well as inside at power forward for Baylor.
“Natalie really is our fourth post player if we ever need her,” Mulkey said. “We will need her through the year. We do work on those things. We have a little pick and pop with Natalie. I think it’s very tough to guard. That’s not by accident when you saw her doing all that. Those are all things we work on. Her step-back move when she’s having to play inside to be able to get a shot off against bigger post players.”
Also in double figures for Baylor was senior Dekeiya Cohen with 10 points, as every Lady Bear scored. Overall, Baylor shot 49.4 percent from the floor.
Defensively, the Lady Bears held the Fighting Hawks to 26.8 percent shooting and scored 31 points off 21 North Dakota turnovers. Fallyn Freije was the lone North Dakota player to finish in double figures as she put up 13 points.
Baylor even played a zone defense the entire second half.
“That was different,” Wallace said. “Coach Mulkey doesn’t like playing a zone, which I like playing man as well. So, it was a bit different tonight. But, I think we did well. We ran well out of it. And yeah, we executed well in it. Good practice.”