Brannen Greene made a three-pointer from the corner on Friday that, to him, felt like it counted double.
It came late in the second half of No. 2 Kansas’ 75-56 victory over No. 15 seed New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament round of 64 at Century Link Center, and when Greene, a sophomore guard, saw it splash through the net he responded with claps, yells and high-fives.
“When you see shots fall like that,” Greene said, “it builds your confidence and makes you start looking forward to getting back on the court for your next game.”
He was speaking for himself and his team.
Greene was one of five KU players to drain a three-pointer on the Jayhawks’ way to a stellar shooting performance. They hit nine of 13 shots behind the three-point arc, and that 69.2 shooting percentage was the team’s highest in a game since 1996.
Greene made two of four, Kelly Oubre hit two of three, and Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham combined to make five without a miss.
Not bad for a group that made just eight three-pointers in three games at the Big 12 Tournament and didn’t make any in games against TCU and West Virginia.
“When guys are making shots like that, we are a deadly team,” KU forward Jamari Traylor said. “I was happy to see the guys make those shots, Brannen in particular, because he was struggling and now it seems like he has his confidence back. That gives us another weapon.”
Nobody embodied the Jayhawks’ recent shooting slump better than Greene.
There was a stretch during the middle of the season in which it seemed like he couldn’t miss. Even when defenders chased him well behind the three-point line, he shot with confidence. Self went as far as to say no one in the country could make more defended shots than Greene.
Then Greene went cold, making only four three-pointers during a 10-game stretch leading up to the NCAA Tournament.
“Today was definitely a sense of relief,” Greene said. “They finally fell for me. The lid came off. My shot just wasn’t falling there for a while and I wasn’t playing all that well, either. You guys saw that in the Big 12 Tournament.
“I didn’t play well. I was just getting in my head too much. Personally, it was good to see those fall. At one point in the season we were one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation. To get back to what we do is a very good feeling.”
Greene could sense from the start that he was going to play well.
“My shot felt good ever since warmups,” Greene said. “Even in the first half, when I missed those two shots, they both felt really good. I felt like I had my old shot back.”
Kansas chose an ideal time to relocate its shooting touch.
The NCAA Tournament is filled with unpredictable matchups and little time to prepare. Strong outside shooting can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing. Against New Mexico State’s zone defense, it was essential.
“It’s a huge relief,” Graham said. “That is a big part of our team, hitting shots. Against a zone like that you have got to hit shots if you want to win.”
Kansas won against New Mexico State with a balanced attack that featured inside and outside scoring.
That’s something it hopes to continue as long as it remains in the NCAA Tournament.
“It expands our offense,” KU guard Wayne Selden said. “We are used to playing inside out. It was mostly inside the last few games. To get the shots to fall today was huge.”
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