OKLAHOMA CITY — Baylor’s Moon Ursin played Sunday’s Big 12 tournament semifinal with a heavy heart, just a day after the death of her grandfather, Clarence Alexander.
Ursin, a sophomore from Destrehan, La., said she was extremely close with her grandpa. But she didn’t hesitate in making the decision to stick around her team, adding that the game allowed her to focus on something else for a while.
“He was my everything. And he’s also the first person that I ever lost,” said Ursin, who played 13 minutes and contributed four rebounds and three assists in Baylor’s 88-60 win over Kansas State. “And he’s a grandparent. I mean, grandparents, you know? My grandfather, I spent every summer with him until about my junior year of high school, every summer at my grandparents’ house. And he meant absolutely everything to me.”
Since learning of her grandfather’s passing on Saturday, Ursin said she has been overwhelmed with support from her basketball family on the Lady Bears. Some of her teammates – including DiDi Richards earlier this season – have lost grandparents or other loved ones, so they’ve been there, too.
“I’ve lost two grandmothers,” Baylor center Kalani Brown said. “I know how special they are, especially when you’re close to them. We’ve just been loving on her, trying to make her laugh, just so she can think about as less as possible. So it doesn’t affect her game. She played well today, despite having that bad news yesterday. I’m just proud of her. There’s not really much you can do or say, just saying encouraging words and keeping her focused.”
Ursin was grateful that her teammates have been quick with a hug or an encouraging word, and that they’ve let her cry as much as she wanted.
“I knew it was going to be hard. It’s been hard since I found out,” Ursin said. “I would just start crying sometimes. But there’s absolutely nothing I can do until I can get there with my family, and that’s when I can just really drop down, if I have to. But I’m here now. I’ve got my teammates, I’ve got my coaches, fans, everyone who’s supporting. For these 40 minutes I’ve just got to focus on basketball.”
BU’s Brown wanted quicker whistle in dust-up with Beard
Most players don’t want to hear the referee’s whistle. With six minutes to play in the fourth, however, Bayor’s Kalani Brown was begging for one.
Brown and Kansas State’s Jasauen Beard got tangled up, and then tempers flared. The players barked at one another, and the officials hit them each with a technical foul as teammates yanked them away.
“I blocked the shot and then I grabbed the rebound, and she was trying to get the ball from me,” Brown said. “And I was looking at the ref like, ‘Hey, I’m holding onto the ball, can you call the foul?’ So, mostly I blame the refs for not stopping it while it was still going. They just let it happen. That’s what makes me upset – that you let it happen, let it get to that point, when you could have stopped it. He was standing right there, under the basket. And no call. It just escalated badly, and I just blame the refs, because you could have stopped it and you didn’t.”
Baylor’s Lauren Cox turned in the assist of the night by pulling Brown away before the encounter escalated any further.
“I’ve always kept Lauren a cool head, so this time she had to do it. And Chloe (Jackson),” Brown said. “She and Chloe had to help me out. Usually I’m not the one getting frustrated, I’m the one pulling them apart. Teammates had my back today.”
30 cheers for Baylor women
Reaching the 30-win plateau has become an annual ritual for Baylor.
By defeating K-State on Sunday, the Lady Bears chalked up win No. 30 on the year. That marks the ninth straight season that they’ve reached 30 wins, and the 10th time under head coach Kim Mulkey. In all, the program owns 14 seasons of 30 or more wins, including four in the AIAW days under Olga Fallen.
ISU’s Carleton, BU’s Brown to face off in final contest
In addition to a Big 12 tournament championship, Monday’s final will also pit the league’s last two Conference Player of the Year winners.
Iowa State’s Bridget Carleton won the honor this year from the league’s coaches. Carleton turned in 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the second-seeded Cyclones’ 75-69 win over third-seeded Texas on Sunday.
Kalani Brown was the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year in 2018 for Baylor. In the Lady Bears’ 88-60 win over Kansas State, she scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go with nine rebounds and one blocked shot.