McNear dishing out assists, offense for WKU

WKU senior Amy McNear drives the ball to the basket during the second half of the Lady Toppers’ game against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday. McNear is currently averaging 7.1 assists per game, which ranks second in the nation.

Cole Claybourn

Senior guard Amy McNear couldn’t contain her excitement after Saturday’s win over Louisiana-Monroe when she realized she had a double-double.

She let out a scream, similar to that of a child opening up a Christmas present they were so hoping for.

“She knew,” senior forward Arnika Brown said jokingly, which McNear quickly denied.

“I’ve been so close these couple of games,” McNear said. “I’ve either had nine points and six rebounds, or I had nine assists and six points. So I’ve been close, and it just feels good to finally get that double-double.”

McNear’s 17 points and 10 assists on Saturday was the first points-assists double-double at WKU since McNear had 14 points and 10 assists against Louisiana-Lafayette on Jan. 21, 2009.

But dishing out assists is nothing new to McNear. She became a member of the 500 assists club earlier in the season, and her 10 assists on Saturday brought her season total to 141 — a career high. 

After Saturday’s game, her assists average rose to 7.1 per game, which ranks second in the country.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said it wasn’t until a week ago that she realized McNear was second in the nation in assists.

But that didn’t mean she was blind to what McNear has been doing all season on offense.

“It’s been a huge help, to be honest,” she said. “With the poor shooting we had early on in the season, if we were hitting some of those layups that we missed, she’d probably be averaging a whole lot more assists at this point in the season.”

That poor shooting has turned into good shooting in the past two games for the Lady Toppers, and sophomore forward Janae Howard credited that to McNear. WKU shot 40 percent on Wednesday against South Alabama and 45.3 percent on Saturday against ULM.

Howard had 24 points against ULM and said McNear was the reason she was able to get in a rhythm offensively.

“It helps when someone can dish it out the way Amy does,” Howard said. “When she turns the corner, the defense is going to have to help. Otherwise, she’s going for the cup.

“So if I can step out, and she can give me a dish and I can hit it, then she’s helping me, I’m helping her and we’re helping the team.”

McNear’s 141 assists this season is far and away tops on the team. The next closest on the list is senior guard Hope Brown with 36.

But McNear isn’t just an assist machine. She’s averaging 9.6 points per game and leads the team in steals with 34.

Cowles said the Lady Toppers simply need McNear on the floor for the offense to work like it’s designed to.

“We all know Amy can score for us from the point guard position, but she’s just gotten really creative and involving her teammates in that creativity,” she said. “But we need Amy to produce like that in both of those stat lines. We need for her to dish the basketball as well as score for us.”

Senior forward Arnika Brown simply labeled McNear as a point guard who looks out for her teammates first.

“She’s great at distributing the ball and getting her teammates good shots. It’s as simple as that,” Brown said. “Who wouldn’t love to play with a point guard like that?”