The ball swung to the top of the key, and Wayne Selden set his feet on the right wing. He stood all alone, open by close to 15 feet as the noise inside Allen Fieldhouse raised an octave and the anticipation grew.
More than 12 minutes remained in No. 8 Kansas’ 89-76 victory over No. 11 Iowa State on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. For Kansas, it was 12 minutes to avenge its only conference loss with a second-half knockout. For Selden, the Jayhawks’ enigmatic sophomore guard, it was 12 minutes to toss aside a season of doubts, of questions and quiet performances, and bury the Cyclones with a perfectly-timed breakout.
Kansas guard Frank Mason caught the ball at the top of the key, and without hesitation, swung the ball to Selden on the wing. The shot was perfect, swishing through the net as the old barn exploded again.
“You just got to think next shot,” Selden said, “and know the next shot is going in.”
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Next shot. Next play. Next game. This is what Selden would repeat in the moments after he matched a career high with five three-pointers on Monday night. He scored 19 of his 20 points in the second half, and the Jayhawks improved to 8-1 in the Big 12 and maintained sole possession of first place in the conference race. For Kansas, a sense of order was restored.
Just 16 days earlier, Kansas found itself inside Hilton Coliseum, dazed and disorganized after an 86-81 road loss at Iowa State. On Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks exhibited complete control for most of the second half. Revenge. Redemption. Payback. Call it whatever.
“We thought about last game so much,” Selden said.
For Kansas, this victory was about protecting its home turf. And this night was also about Selden, who had averaged just 8.4 points per game in conference play. A few weeks ago, as the Jayhawks took control of the Big 12 race, Kansas coach Bill Self took stock of his team and offered up one area for growth. If Selden could find himself, Self said, it could change Kansas’ future.
Mason has grown into one of the Big 12’s most valuable lead guards. Freshman wing Kelly Oubre hits the glass and scores in transition. Sophomore Brannen Greene is shooting better than 50 percent on three-pointers.
Then there’s Selden.
“Wayne is such a key,” Self said. “If you’ve got Wayne and Brannen, and the way Kelly has played, and Frank — you’ve got four really good perimeter offensive players. That makes us much harder to guard.”
For most of Monday, Iowa State appeared to sag off of Selden, daring him to shoot. He finished seven of 12 from the floor. He drilled five of seven from beyond the arc. He looked confident in the half-court offense. He bobbed his head in celebration after his fifth three-pointer went down.
“My teammates drove it,” Selden said, “and they’ve got to help.”
Just 16 days ago, the Cyclones had been relentless in the open floor. The Jayhawks gave up 21 fast-break points. Self shrugged and called it pitiful. Kansas freshman Devonte’ Graham captured the night with a cutting, one-word description: “Lazy.”
On Monday, the Jayhawks dedicated themselves to getting back on defense. They allowed just 12 points in transition.
“It’s been haunting us, ever since it happened,” Selden said. “And we’ve just been thinking about it, thinking about it. We were really looking forward to this one.”
So on Monday night, Kansas welcomed Iowa State back into Allen Fieldhouse for The Rematch. Yes, capital letters. In 11 seasons at Kansas, Self had never been swept by a conference opponent in a home-and-home series. Perhaps those inside Allen Fieldhouse — a pumped-up crowd of 16,300 — could sense the moment and the stakes.
As the Jayhawks pieced together a 35-28 halftime lead, the building rocked with an intensity reserved for a night where the theme is revenge. For the opening 20 minutes, Iowa State appeared content to pack its defense inside the three-point line and dare Kansas to do its damage from long distance. For the opening stretches of the half, the gambit appeared to work. But then Greene came off the bench and buried a three-pointer with just more than 9 minutes left in the half, and the momentum appeared to shift.
Junior forward Perry Ellis finished with 17 points, while Mason added 12 points and eight assists. The Jayhawks were a complete unit. But in the final seconds, it was Selden who strolled over to the KU bench and embraced Self. Nearly 20 minutes later, someone asked Selden about the Jayhawks’ streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles. Kansas, after all, is barreling toward another title.
Selden heard the stat — 10 straight titles — and then looked on incredulously.
“We have?” he said.
Selden didn’t smile. He didn’t break character. He just stayed in the moment. Next shot. Next play.
“We can’t think about that,” Selden said. “We just have to think about next game.”