Good news for KU: Selden’s got his groove back
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Perry Ellis’ lines are as close as you can get to the straight, wide swaths of Kansas plains, and Frank Mason is getting there. Before long, you’ll be able to set your watch to Cliff Alexander, too, a double-double man in the making.
But Wayne Selden, man. Wayne Selden is something else.
Over 42 games as a Rock Chalk Jayhawk, the sophomore guard has netted 14 or more points 10 times, six or fewer 11 times, and the other 21 have been in the middle.
Up. Down. Up. Down. Side to side. Up. Down. Up again.
The only thing predictable about No. 1 is his unpredictability, something even Florida coach Billy Donovan noted ruefully after Selden’s 21 points helped sink the Gators, 71-65, Friday at Allen Fieldhouse as part of the SEC/Big 12 challenge.
"I thought he would come and play well," Donovan said of Selden, noting his 0-for-10 against Michigan State the Sunday before, because on this carpet ride, what goes down usually springs back again. "I think he’s always been a streaky shooter, but I think the one thing about him is, he always has confidence in himself, belief in himself."
First-half Wayne: 3 for 6, one trey, seven points. Hosts down 15.
Second-half Wayne: 6 for 9, one trey, 14 points. Hosts win the half by 21.
"At times I would get un-confident last year," explained Selden, who lifted his scoring average to 9.6 per game and his shooting percentage to a still-less-than-robust .344. "But there’s no reason to be un-confident when you have confidence in your coaches and your teammates."
With 8:11 to go in the game, the 11th-ranked Jayhawks were down, 52-45. Some five minutes later, it was 60-52 the other way, a 15-0 run by the hosts. Selden was responsible for six of those points, all on long, arcing jumpers, like a game of "NBA Jam" come to life. Old school. Mid-range rainbows.
The only thing missing was the short shorts. Every ball that left his hands had a vapor trail on its backside. Swish city.
"He made real points in the second half," said coach Bill Self, whose squad moved to 6-1 after wiping out the biggest halftime deficit KU had seen at the Phog since 1995. "Those are real college baskets. Those weren’t easy points."
And, at times, this wasn’t an easy tilt to stomach. With 11:53 to go in the game and KU on a 10-2 run, freshman Kelly Oubre set up in the backcourt, stopped, and took two baby half-shuffle steps, an unforced turnover that infuriated Self as well as the home crowd.
After a timeout, about four Jayhawks trailed a shooter, leaving Gators big man Jon Horford all alone in the post for an easy dunk, pushing the lead to 49-37.
At halftime, Ellis, Alexander and Jamari Traylor were a combined 2 for 9 from the floor with six rebounds and four turnovers. When KU’s players weren’t getting boxed out to Lenexa, they were getting whupped on the glass. An undermanned Florida crew that got outrebounded by three against Miami (Fla.) and by two against North Carolina had an 18-11 edge over the first 20 minutes.
With 2:46 to go in the half, the Gators had 11 second-chance points, the Jayhawks zero. At halftime, the difference was 13-2 in the wrong direction. You could feel Self’s blood pressure rising with each possession.
"It wasn’t (very) good," guard Devonte’ Graham said, grinning, when asked to recap the halftime talk.
For 20 minutes, it was the Kentucky version of Kansas. The version that played like a directional school.
"I felt, first half, we had it," Florida’s Chris Walker noted. "But in the second half, the crowd got into it, the (KU) players are hitting tough shots, (and) we couldn’t really get anything. The crowd kind of helped ’em out."
Selden took off, the locals stomped like a bunch of bulls and the hustle numbers completely flipped in the final 20: The Jayhawks won the points in the paint, 14-10; the bench points, 19-7; and the second-chance points — a Self sticking-point — 11-zip.
"It was just like Jekyll and Hyde, almost, that first half and that second half," Self said.
They went into the second half as Gators. They left it as a set of suitcases, each monogrammed with Selden’s initials.
"We need him every game," Graham said of his teammate. "We feed off of him."
Good Wayne — 14 points or more — the Jayhawks are 9-1.
Bad Wayne — six points or fewer — six up, five down.
"If you’re going to be a leader, you’ve got to have a presence," Self said. "And he’s got a presence. But even more importantly than just having a presence, he’s got a physical presence.
"So I think that kind of gives him a leg up on some guys that maybe don’t have that physical presence. But he’s an alpha male and he just hasn’t had anything go right for him, for the most part, the first four or five games of the season. And it was nice to see that lid come off."
It was nice to see that un-confidence in the rear view mirror, waving from a safe distance. Because when he’s lights out, so are they.