Des Moines, Iowa After watching his team trim a 23-point Kansas lead down to nine on two different occasions late in the first half of Saturday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game at Wells Fargo Arena, UConn freshman Jalen Adams said he could feel the momentum turning the Huskies’ way.
But both times a familiar face and fellow Roxbury, Mass., native made plays that pushed the Kansas lead back to double digits and kept UConn from completing the comeback.
The red, watery eyes that radiated on Adams’ face in the locker room after Kansas’ 73-61 victory told the story of how hard the loss hit the 6-foot-3, 187-pound guard experiencing his first taste of March Madness. But given that his Saturday foe and the game’s hero was hometown friend Wayne Selden Jr., Adams was more than happy to praise the play of the KU junior who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and some of the game’s most crucial plays.
“If anyone had to beat us, I’m glad it was one of my good friends,” Adams said. “But I wish he would’ve saved that for a different game.”
With Kansas (32-4) leading 52-43 with 8:47 to play, Selden did what many believed he would do all season after watching him uncork a different brand of basketball during KU’s run to the gold medal at the World University Games in Korea last summer.
Driving down the lane to his right, Selden slipped past the UConn defense and hit soft jumper in the lane. Kansas 54, UConn 43.
On the very next Kansas possession, Selden caught a pass from Perry Ellis on the wing and drove left, finishing with a little floater just outside of the paint. Kansas 56, UConn 43.
The Jayhawks still needed six points to climb above the Huskies’ total of 61. So, technically, those buckets did not win Kansas the game. But they sure did seem to prevent UConn (25-11) from making a push to claim control.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, as well as Jayhawks Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr., answer questions from media members following the Jayhawks' 73-61 victory over Connecticut, which advanced KU to its first Sweet 16 since 2013.
Selden also assisted on an Ellis jumper out of a timeout that followed UConn cutting KU’s lead to 50-41 with just under 10 minutes to play.
“He played great,” Adams said of Selden. “He stepped up on the big stage and played great basketball.”
Added UConn coach Kevin Ollie: “I want to take my hat off to Kansas. That’s a real good team, solid players up and down. They didn’t really use their bench. The guys that started played a lot of minutes and they (were) effective in what they (were) doing. So they’re going to be a very, very tough out of this tournament.”
When asked if anything he saw from Selden on Saturday night that surprised him, Adams simply shook his head and said, “Nah.”
“He performed like a pro today,” Adams said. “And I wish him the best. I hope he goes on to do bigger and better things, starting with winning the national championship.”
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