THIBODAUX, La. (AP) — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey made it a priority to schedule a game in southeast Louisiana, giving center Kalani Brown and freshman guard Moon Ursin a chance to play in front of family around the holidays.
The two players’ performances delighted of a throng of green-clad fans in the stands behind the Baylor bench.
Brown had 18 points and seven rebounds, Ursin scored 11 points in her first career start, and No. 6 Baylor defeated Nicholls State 85-43 on Monday night.
“I wanted these kids to be able to come back to Louisiana,” said Mulkey, who also grew up in south Louisiana and was an AAU teammate of Nicholls State coach DoBee Plaisance. “Just get ‘em back home and let people see ‘em.”
Lauren Cox scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting for Baylor (10-1), which also finished with a 55-23 rebounding advantage en route to its seventh straight victory.
Tykeria Williams scored 21 for Nicholls State (5-5), but she had little help as the Colonels saw their four-game winning streak snapped.
“Ty’s incredible,” Plaisance said. “As gifted and talented as she is, she can go out and put these numbers up whether it’s against Baylor or a conference opponent.”
Kristy Wallace added 14 points for the Lady Bears, who outshot Nicholls 55.9 percent (33 of 59) to 28.3 percent (17 of 60).
Nicholls was able to keep the game competitive through the first quarter, largely because the Lady Bears’ shooters needed a few minutes to find their range after an hour-long bus ride from New Orleans, where they’d spent the weekend and attended the Saints’ victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
“I got off to a slow start offensively, but my team was able to pick up the slack so it really didn’t matter,” Brown said.
Baylor led just 12-10 late in the first period and was still as close as 23-17 early in the second period when Nicholls’ Tia Charles fed Cassidy Barrios for a layup.
But Baylor’s Juicy Landrum, who finished with 11 points, hit a 3 to begin the Lady Bears’ onslaught, igniting a 10-1 run that became a 35-4 surge.
Baylor: The Bears got the lopsided non-conference victory most expected.
Nicholls State: The Colonels brought energy and effort before a larger-than-usual crowd at on-campus Stopher Gymnasium. But they struggled to score against a Baylor squad that had a height advantage at every position, not to mention the disparity in talent and depth.
FAVOR FOR A FRIEND
Plaisance had to cancel a previously scheduled opponent to accommodate Mulkey’s request to play this week. Plaisance said she was happy to do it for a woman who was not only a teammate in their youth but a college competitor when Mulkey was at Louisiana Tech and Plaisance at Southeastern Louisiana.
“It was a great night for Louisiana basketball. I was excited for the Louisiana Baylor girls to come here and play, especially right around Christmas,” Plaisance said. “Kim works very hard and is a class act with her team. It’s always about the big picture.”
Ursin said she had “no idea this many people were going to show up. … It means so much to me and it’s even better when you can do things you know how to do.”
Mulkey’s son, former LSU baseball star and current St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguer Kramer Robertson, attended the game.
OVER THE MOON
Ursin said the game could be an important building block for her career with the Big 12 schedule looming.
“Coach Mulkey, she tells us, shoot the ball, do what you need to do, figure it out,” Ursin said. “That’s what she allowed me to do tonight.”
Brown said Ursin “played well, got transition buckets. She was in her groove. … It was a great confidence boost for Moon for the future.”
Baylor is off through Christmas before opening Big 12 play at Kansas State.
Nicholls State faces a second straight test against the Big 12, visiting Iowa State on Thursday night.