The Louisiana flavor on the Baylor University women's basketball team was splashed all over the television screen Monday night, moments after the Lady Bears had finished off their 85-53 shellacking of Iowa to punch its ticket to the Final Four.
First, there was Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, all 5-foot-4 of her (a tad bit taller in heels) engulfed in the giant embrace of 6-foot-7 senior center Kalani Brown.
In the background was sophomore guard Cara "Moon" Ursin, posing for a selfie with two of her teammates.
Mulkey, a former Hammond High standout, Brown (Salmen High in Slidell) and Ursin (Destrehan High) made sure The Boot is well represented this weekend in Tampa on the biggest stage in women's hoops.
"It makes a statement that Louisiana has some great players," said Angi Butler, Ursin's high school coach. "Kim is doing some great things as the coach there and what a statement for the state of Louisiana."
And that doesn't even include the other Louisiana connection, Baylor's Chloe Jackson, a grad transfer from LSU who grew up in Maryland.
Baylor (35-1) plays Oregon (33-4) in the Friday's first semifinal game, with the winner advancing to Sunday's championship game to play the winner between Notre Dame (34-3) and UConn (35-2).
Mulkey, named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press on Thursday, is making her fourth trip to the Final Four. But it's her first since winning it all in the 2011-12 season. Making this one even more special is that it's her first one with Brown, a former McDonald's All-American at Salmen High School who fell short of the Final Four each of her first three seasons. The Bears fell in the Elite 8 during Brown's freshman and sophomore year and were stunned in the Sweet 16 last season.
"That was the only thing missing from her résumé," said Dee Brown, Kalani's mom Dee. "Getting past the Elite 8 seemed almost like a curse. But she had that hunger for it."
Dee Brown played for Mulkey when she was an assistant at Louisiana Tech, forming a bond that is a big reason why her daughter ended up at Baylor.
Now Brown, an All-American projected to be a first-round pick in next week's WNBA Draft, is looking to give Mulkey her third national title at Baylor to go along with the ones she won in 2005 and 2012. It would be the latest achievement for a coach who is the first person in NCAA history to win a national title as a player and as an assistant (both at Louisiana Tech) and as a head coach.
That doesn't include the four consecutive state championships Mulkey won as a player at Hammond High in the late '70s and early '80s.
Brown and Ursin, two of the most dominant players to come out of Louisiana in the past few years, dominated in high school just like their current coach.
Each one was named Miss Basketball twice, joining Seimone Augustus and Kisha James as the state's only two-time winners. Brown won it back-to-back in 2014 and 2015 and Ursin won it the next two years. Mulkey likely would have won the honor, too, if the award had been around back when she was playing.
Like their coach, they both won state championships as well, with Brown dominating in the paint to lead Salmen to two and Ursin putting Destrehan on her back for one.
Brown is averaging 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds this season. Ursin, who comes off the bench, is averaging 4.2 points. The Bears have won 27 consecutive games, including a victory over UConn in January that snapped the Huskies' 126-game regular-season winning streak.
Mulkey, Brown and Ursin would like nothing more than to extend that winning streak to 29. Two more wins means they get to climb the ladder to cut down the nets for a second weekend in a row.
The goal they have worn on bracelets all season long — "TTT" which stands for "Together To Tampa"— has been reached.
Together, Baylor is in Tampa.
Three ladies from Louisiana helped them get there.