Nicollette Smith’s week began with nose surgery and ended with a double-double.
In between, the Kansas University sophomore was the recipient of plenty of good-natured ribbing from her basketball teammates.
“We told her it looked like she was making a fashion statement with a gauze mustache,” junior Sade Morris said with a grin.
Smith, a 6-foot-2 junior from Tulsa, Okla., who suffered a deviated septum after taking an elbow during the Iowa game, scored 13 points and added 10 rebounds as KU upended New Orleans, 64-42, on Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’m glad it came when it did,” said Smith, who will have to wear a plastic mask for about a month, “because we were obviously off today.”
For the first three-fourths of the game, they were way off. The Jayhawks were nursing a 39-38 lead with a little more than 11 minutes remaining, then they hit the Privateers with a 25-4 cannonball the rest of the way.
New Orleans (2-3) couldn’t hit the ocean from the end of the plank, missing 18 of its last 20 shots.
“Our biggest problem is finishing,” UNO coach Amy Champion said. “We just have to learn how to finish.”
Kansas finished in fine fashion, of course, in large part because of Smith, who didn’t practice until Saturday, and that was just for about 30 minutes.
“I was very nervous that I would be sucking wind,” Smith said, “because I hadn’t been doing any cardio work at all.”
Usually when a player practices as little as Smith did, that player opens the game on the bench. Not Smith. She started.
“Yeah, we were teasing her before the game,” junior Danielle McCray said. “You practice one day, and you’re starting. But she was really good. To come off surgery and have a big game is impressive.”
McCray was impressive, too, with her second straight double-double — 13 points and 12 boards. Her team-leading scoring average (23.7) took a hit, though, because she couldn’t buy a three-point goal, missing all six she attempted.
Morris also turned in some nice numbers with a career-high-tying 20 points — she was 8-for-8 from the foul line — and a career-high eight rebounds as KU won the board battle, 54-37.
LaChelda Jacobs, who scored all nine of her points in the second half, added a career-high eight caroms and a team-high seven assists. The junior point guard was also charged with eight of KU’s ugly 21 turnovers.
“I don’t want to take anything away from New Orleans,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said, “but a lot of that was just us being sloppy with the ball.”
Henrickson wasn’t thrilled, either, the way the Jayhawks answered the bell, and not just because of their dreadful 26 percent (9-of-35) shooting in the first half. She wasn’t happy about the first-half defense, either.
“New Orleans set the tone,” the KU coach said. “They had Big 12-type speed, and I don’t think our perimeter answered.”
Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the Privateers, predicted to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference, didn’t display Big 12-type shooting, and thus Kansas remained unbeaten in four games.
Next for Kansas will be a visit from San Jose State on Thursday night.
Notes: Smith started in place of Krysten Boogaard who missed her second straight game with a stress reaction in her right leg, an injury that will be reevaluated Wednesday. … UNO’s 42 points were the fewest by a KU foe since the 2005 season. … Caitlin Laird, a ninth-grader at West Junior High, sang the national anthem and alma mater.