OKLAHOMA CITY — She’s fearless with a bit of confidence mixed in. There’s no challenge Alexis Morris runs from. It’s always fight, never flight for the point guard. So once Kristy Wallace went down with an ACL injury nearly a week ago, there were a few nerves but never any panic once Morris realized she would now be the starting point guard for the No. 3 team in the country.
If anything, there was a need to prove herself, and so far throughout the Big 12 Championship she’s done just that as Baylor topped TCU, 94-48, in the semifinals Sunday afternoon which marked the largest margin of victory in the postseason tournament.
“I’m a freshman playing a senior’s game,” Morris said. “I have to prove myself.”
There’s no fear when Morris steps on the court. Instead, she immediately takes command. When asked where she developed this aspect of her game, she answered by going up against Wallace every day in practice.
“(Kristy’s) always in my ears to always do the right thing, to lead my team,” Morris said. “I give all the credit to Kristy. She prepared me in practice every day just pushing me to be better every day.
She’s in control of the tempo of the game, leading the Baylor fast breaks with her quickness. Morris orchestrates the offense, getting the Lady Bears set up for good looks at the basket. As a point guard, she must know where everyone is supposed to be on the floor at all times.
“I learned this week that I have to play defense,” Morris said. “I can’t take plays off because it affects my team. I have to know when to push the ball, know when to run a controlled break. I’ve just learned a lot as I grow and play.”
If there’s a lane open, Morris drives towards the basket and is able to finish in a variety of ways. Against Kansas State, she went with an up and under sort of move in midair once before scoring off her outstretched right hand to shield the ball from being blocked by a bigger Wildcat defender.
Her speed enables her to blow past defenders, so the defense has to choose between shutting down the drive or guarding her on the perimeter. Morris can be deadly from 3-point range but also has an effective pull-up jumper.
None of this comes as any surprise to Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey.
“The only thing Alexis doesn’t have that Kristy had is minutes played and game experience as you go along in the playoffs,” Mulkey said. “She has the talent. She brings different things to the table than Kristy does. … What a beautiful jump shot that kid has. She has done remarkable.”
Earlier in the year, Mulkey would sub Morris in at the point guard and move Wallace over to the shooting guard position, so running the Baylor offense is nothing new to Morris. Her ability at the point guard spot freed Wallace up to go off against Texas and at West Virginia when the senior was named the espnW National Player of the Week.
Now it’s Juicy Landrum at the shooting guard position with Morris at the point. And that’s not a new combination either. The two call each other sisters as they played AAU basketball together on DFW Elite.
Morris says the two clicked as soon as they met, while Landrum says they have a special way of communicating since they’ve known each other for so long.
“I know the way she plays and I kind of know the way she thinks,” Landrum said. “Like on free throws, I may say something to her and she says something to me. ‘OK, we’re going to execute that plan.’ That’s just the way that goes.”
Mulkey says she has to catch herself with Morris and Landrum.
“Those two are like sisters and you watch ‘em jaw with each other and you think they’re getting on each other and they’re mad at each other, but they roomed together,” Mulkey said. “Their parents are up in the stands up there jawing at ‘em, and it’s the funniest thing. I’m like, what do y’all say to each other right there. It’s just how they all play together.”
The two nearly finished with triple doubles against TCU inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. Morris scored 18 points to go with six rebounds and six assists, while Landrum put up 13 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
“With Kristy being out, we all know that’s not a great thing,” Morris said. “Now I know I just have to step up, and it’s my time to shine.”
Meanwhile, Kalani Brown led the way with 28 points for Baylor followed by Lauren Cox with 19 points. The two Baylor bigs finished with double-doubles as the Lady Bears shot 60 percent from the floor — the highest field goal percentage by any team in the tournament — and outrebounded TCU 49-19.
Earlier in the week, Mulkey mentioned that she would need more from her players to make up the 12 points per game Wallace provided. Against TCU, Brown scored nine more than her average (19.9), Cox scored five more than her average (14.6), Morris scored 10 more than her average (8.2), Landrum scored six more than her average (7.0), while Didi Richards (5.1) and Moon Ursin (3.1) each scored one point more than their average.
With the win over the Horned Frogs, Baylor is in its eighth-straight Big 12 Championship title game. Baylor will face Texas at 8 p.m.
While the Lady Bears were doing postgame media interviews, West Virginia and Texas were playing for a spot. And Brown and Cox both answered that the loss to West Virginia a year ago is motivation for Monday night’s title game.
“There are two teams about to go play out there, and I played both in the Big 12 Championship since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “So I know what they bring and I know their intensity is going to be super high and we just have to match that.”
Added Cox: “We always want to win. We hate to lose. Those are two great teams out there that are going to battle, and we’re going to have to face one of them tomorrow and play our game.”