Decades of statistical analysis and numbers-crunching will tell you that mid-range jumpers are often the worst shot in basketball. For instance: To shoot a mid-range jumper is to assume all the difficulty and risk of a perimeter shot, with none of the added value.
But basketball, of course, is not simply a binary game of numbers and percentages. On most nights inside Allen Fieldhouse, the game can feel like a living, breathing organism. College basketball teams, for example, are not suppose to come back from 18 points in the second half. And, well, Kansas sophomore guard Wayne Selden simply has no need for what the numbers might say.
“You just got to keep shooting the ball,” Selden said.
Selden, a 6-foot-5 guard, put on a mid-range clinic on Friday night, leading No. 11 Kansas to a 71-65 victory over Florida in a packed and riotous Allen Fieldhouse.
In a wild, come-from-behind performance, the Jayhawks won their fifth straight by erasing an 18-point lead during the final 17 minutes, the largest comeback since coming from 19 down against Missouri in the final Border War game in 2012.
And for moments, this was the Selden show. He finished with 21 points, including 14 in the second half. The Jayhawks buried the Gators with a 17-0 run that turned a 52-43 deficit into a 60-52 lead with more than three minutes to play.
“We feed off of him,” freshman guard Devonte’ Graham said.
For Selden, this was also redemption. He had gone zero for 10 from the floor in Kansas’ last game, a victory over Michigan State in the Orlando Classic. And for the better part of six games, Selden just didn’t look right. Perhaps he was putting too much pressure on himself. Maybe the shots just weren’t falling. Kansas coach Bill Self once said Selden could be one of the best leaders he’s ever had. For most of November, he was nearly a liability.
“He’s an alpha male,” Self said, “and he just hasn’t had anything go right for him”
On Friday night, Selden looked just fine, penetrating toward the elbow and rising up for a bevy of mid-range jumpers. On the Florida bench, coach Billy Donovan could only shrug. Like most college teams, the Gators were guarding against the three and easy buckets inside. If Selden was content to shoot long jumpers, that’s really what Donovan preferred.
“He made some tough pull-up jumpshots,” Donovan said, “and we’re going to give those up.”
“Those are real college baskets,” Self added. “When you don’t run good offense and you just jump up and make a shot.”
By late on Friday night, those “real” baskets helped Kansas escape a disastrous end to a momentous day in Lawrence.
Yes, Kansas hired a new football coach on Friday, and while that’s become a December tradition around these parts, it wasn’t supposed to be the highlight of the day.
That was supposed to be Friday night here inside Allen Fieldhouse, where the 11th-ranked Jayhawks would play host to Florida in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, the most anticipated nonconference home game of the season.
Dick Vitale and the ESPN crew were in town. The Jayhawks were coming off a victory last week at the Orlando Classic. The old barn was rocking. Self and his Jayhawks wanted to avenge last season’s loss in Gainesville, sure, but this was about the here and now.
So, well, who saw this first half coming? The Jayhawks looked flat and feeble, trailing 39-24 at the intermission. A juiced crowd turned restless and a little anxious.
“It was a terrible start,” Self said. “Our best players were not very good at all.
Florida, which entered unranked and with a 3-3 record, thoroughly dominated the opening half as Kansas shot just 34.8 percent from the floor and racked up nine turnovers.
The Gators, meanwhile, used a 29-7 run to open up a 37-20 lead in the final minutes of the half. Florida, which entered the night shooting under 40 percent for the season, shot better than 53 percent from the field for the first 20 minutes.
For Kansas, which will travel to Georgetown on Wednesday and then face No. 25 Utah at the Sprint Center next Saturday, Friday was supposed to be the first of three difficult tests. But perhaps it was not supposed to look this difficult.
In one sense, the Jayhawks’ performance was a simple lesson in pressure and time. By the second half, the Jayhawks kept supplying the pressure, and like a methodical machine, they slowly beat the Gators into submission.
“It’s just chipping away,” Selden said.
The Jayhawks held Florida to just 34 percent shooting in the second half. Sophomore guard Frank Mason, who shook off an ankle injury, tag-teamed with freshman Graham to ratchet up the defensive pressure. And while Selden kept drained jumpers, the crowd came to life, joining the gathering storm.
“The one thing about this place,” Self said, “if you can just hang around … the crowd will get into it.”