By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Returning to her Louisiana roots, Mulkey watched her son, Kramer, graduate from LSU on Friday, then was at the Superdome on Sunday when former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty made his first start of the season in the New York Jets' 31-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Capping it all off, Louisiana natives Brown and Ursin combined for 29 points and 16 rebounds as Mulkey's sixth-ranked Baylor Lady Bears routed Nicholls State, 85-43, Monday night in a rare visit from a Big 12 team to the Colonels' on-campus Stopher Gym in Thibodaux, La.
"First off, I want to thank (Nicholls State coach) Dobee Plaisance for letting us (come here)," said Mulkey, whose team improved to 10-1 going into the Christmas break with its seventh consecutive win. "It was a last-minute deal, I wanted these kids to be able to come back to Louisiana, and she agreed to do it. She oved some things on her schedule, and here we are. And I really am indebted to her for doing that."
Ursin, who flirted with a double-double with nine rebounds and a career-high 11 points, said she "felt a chill go down my body" when Mulkey told her she was making her first start.
"I can't thank Coach Mulkey enough for that," said Ursin, a native of Destrehan, La., and three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana. "At first, I was nervous, playing in front of all these people again. . . . It's always great playing in front of my friends and my family."
The 6-foot-7 Brown did her part as well, hitting 6-of-9 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line and finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Brown and 6-4 sophomore forward Lauren Cox (15 points, eight rebounds) both sat out the entire fourth quarter.
"I got off to a slow start offensively, but my team was able to pick up the slack, so it didn't really matter," Brown said. "I thought our focus was there, we just came out and got off to a slow start. That bus ride (from the hotel) kind of got us stagnant, maybe. I don't know."
Whether it was the bus ride or just a good start by the Colonels (5-5), the Lady Bears did struggle out of the gates, missing six of their first seven shots and falling behind 8-5 three minutes into the game.
"I thought when Cox mixed the first shot, it just kind of snowballed the first two or three minutes from there," Mulkey said. "She rushed the shot, then we gave up a 3. Teams are going to play you their toughest and their best. I thought Nicholls State came out and wanted to compete, and they did. I just think our physicalness, our size, gave them some problems, and they kind of wore down there in the second half."
Baylor was up by just six points, 21-15, after the first quarter. But, Juicy Landrum started a 10-1 run with a 3-pointer, and the Colonels made just two buckets in the second quarter, with the Lady Bears taking a more-comfortable 39-21 lead into the break.
Nicholls State had an eight-plus-minute scoring drought at the start of the second half, missing its first 14 shots from the field, before Paige Williams stopped Baylor's 19-0 run with a layup at the 1:46 mark. In a stretch of 17 minutes that covered most of the second and third quarters, the Lady Bears outscored the Colonels, 35-4.
"We just hit some big shots, got some layups in transition and got the momentum back and got going," said Brown, a Slidell, La., native who led Salman High School to four consecutive state championship games.
Mulkey said her twin towers of Brown and Cox have struggled at times against "smaller players who get into their bodies and just kind of get physical with them."
"I don't see that as much with those two kids when they play against people the same size as they are," she said. "It's when the little ones get in their body, and they get frustrated and rush their shot and do awkward things. But, they're OK. I got to rest them (in the fourth quarter). As I told them, you're going to have five days off for Christmas, and the worst thing you can do is not pick up a basketball. You've got to get in the gym and not lose that conditioning."
Senior guard Kristy Wallace had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Landrum hit three 3-pointers and gave the Lady Bears their fifth double-figure scorer with 11 points and six boards. Sophomore guard Tykeria Williams hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 21 points, but no other Nicholls State player scored more than eight.
Baylor dominated the rebounding battle, 55-23, grabbing 16 offensive boards, and outscored the Colonels, 44-20, in the paint.
"I had no idea this many people would show up," said Ursin, who had her own cheering section sitting behind the Baylor bench. "And for them to drive an hour just to see me play, it means so much to me. It's even better when you can do things you know how to do."
After a six-day break, the Lady Bears will return Christmas night to start practicing for the Big 12 opener against Kansas State (7-2) on Dec. 28 in Manhattan, Kan.