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Mulkey-less Baylor Lady Bears stiff-arm TCU, 74-50

Mulkey-less Baylor Lady Bears stiff-arm TCU, 74-50

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FORT WORTH — Without head coach Kim Mulkey on the bench Saturday, the Baylor Lady Bears seemed to need a spark for part of the afternoon against TCU.

The seventh-ranked Lady Bears got it from senior guard Moon Ursin.

Ursin scored 21 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists, leading Baylor to a 74-50 victory over the Horned Frogs at Schollmaier Arena.

Mulkey did not make the trip due to COVID-19 contact tracing. The Lady Bears were also without sophomore guard Jordyn Oliver, who did not make the trip to Fort Worth for unspecified reasons.

But the remaining Baylor players and coaches took care of business. Associated head coach Bill Brock stepped into Mulkey’s role on the sideline.

On the court, Ursin and junior forward NaLyssa Smith were close to the best versions of themselves. Smith posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Senior guard DiDi Richards, the Lady Bears’ coach on the floor, had a solid day as well as she scored 14 points with six rebounds and seven assists.

“(Ursin, Richards and Smith) have that composure out there,” Brock said. “I thought they really stepped up today and showed up big time.”

Baylor (8-1, 3-0 in Big 12) can now turn its attention to a non-conference showdown with No. 4 Connecticut at 7:30 on Thursday night at the Ferrell Center. Brock gave an update on Mulkey’s status in his postgame press conference and indicated she will be back with the team starting Monday.

Brock said Mulkey came in direct contact with a family member who tested positive for COVID-19. After discussions between Baylor health officials and Mulkey, the Lady Bears coach opted to follow CDC guidelines and isolate through Sunday.

“We were all just pinch-hitting for Coach Mulkey,” Brock said. “It’s hard for players to switch channels and listen to a different voice. But I think they responded well today.”

TCU was also without its head coach as Raegan Pebley missed the game for COVID-19 reasons. The ESPN-Plus broadcast of the game reported that both Mulkey and Pebley had tested negative for the coronavirus, though neither were on their respective benches. Associated head coach Hanna Howard filled in for Pebley.

Brock also said Mulkey tested negative for COVID-19.

TCU (5-3, 0-3) fell behind by double digits in the first quarter and couldn’t get much closer throughout the contest.

However, the Lady Bears didn’t pull away until early in the fourth quarter. Baylor went on an 8-0 run to start the final period and built up its largest lead, 58-38, with 7:41 remaining.

Ursin and Smith got the fourth quarter started as each made the first jump shot they looked at in the period. DiJonai Carrington finished the run with a fast break layup.

TCU cut Baylor’s lead to 14 points with a little more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Lady Bears responded by scoring five in a row, including an Ursin three-point play.

Throughout the afternoon, Ursin was clearly the most active player on the floor and the other Lady Bears knew it.

“My teammates were finding me and I kept putting it in the basket,” Ursin said.

Brock deployed Ursin and Richards for the full 40 minutes each and Smith for all but four minutes of game time. He said he told Ursin at halftime that she wasn’t going to leave the floor, which meant the first 40-minute game of her college career.

“Every game I have to be a leader and today even a little more,” Ursin said. “Coach Brock did a great job of stepping in and we just played ball.”

The Horned Frogs never got within 17 after Ursin’s 3-point play in the fourth quarter. TCU shot 26.2% from the field and were only slightly buoyed by going 13 of 20 from the free-throw line.

Smith scored 10 points in the first half as she led the Lady Bears to a 12-point advantage at the break.

TCU consistently got back on defense to keep Baylor from getting into its fast break game and the Horned Frogs employed a zone defense for part of the first half that caused the Lady Bears to take a lot of jump shots from just inside the 3-point line.

As a result, Baylor had fewer of the runs that have been its trait so far this season.

The Lady Bears did have a 10-3 surge in the last minute of the first quarter, sparked by Ursin and Smith jumpers on back-to-back trips down the floor and capped by a pair of Richards free throws. With that, Baylor took a 20-10 advantage into the second quarter.

But they Lady Bears were unable to extend their lead to more than 13 points for the rest of the half.

Missing a little of rhythm on the offensive end, Baylor turned to its signature defense. The Lady Bears held TCU to 23.3% from the field in the first half and just 3 of 21 from inside the 3-point arc.

Brock said one of the reasons he used Richards for the full 40 minutes was her effort against TCU leading scorer Lauren Heard. Richards pestered Heard into a 2-of-15 day from the field, though she made 9 of 14 free throws to finish with a team-high 14.

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