Every now and then, I try to crawl inside a coach or an athlete's head and figure out what they're thinking during a poor performance or after a great performance. Sometimes, I get it right.
Then there was Sunday evening.
KU's Josh Selby battled his way through a 26-minute, two-point, one-for-nine performance last Wednesday night in Kansas' 82-57 win over Texas-Arlington.
Prior to Sunday's game against Miami (OH), I speculated that Selby would play very well because his poor performance would take off some of the pressure of having to score 20 every night out.
I was right about him performing well. Selby had easily his best all-around game Sunday, scoring 18, grabbing seven rebounds, handing out five assists and making a steal. He also played some outstanding defense against several different Miami Redhawks.
I was dead wrong, though, on a bad game being, big-picture, a good thing. At least, those were the feelings of Selby and his coach, Bill Self. They both very politely told me that I was on crack when it came to that theory.
When I asked Self if that was the case, he looked at me for a nanosecond as if I had lizards coming out of my ears. Then he said, "You (media) guys think about things I don't think about that much."
Coach, I can't argue with that. If anyone can over-think sports, it's sports media.
He continued, "I don't think Josh is – the kind of kid he is, I don't think he feels a lot of pressure. He may in certain situations, just because of game situations. But trust me, he didn't need to have a bad game to take the pressure off. He was really disappointed in his own play the other night, but I thought he responded really well tonight."
Can't argue with that, either.
For Selby's part, I'm quickly learning that he has that perfect scorer's mentality. He probably forgot about his poor Wednesday performance as soon as he stepped out of his postgame shower.
"I don't think (the bad game) took any pressure off me," he said Sunday. "I just had a bad shooting night, and my teammates just told me, 'Keep playing your game and it'll come through for you the next game,' and I took their advice and it worked out for me."
It certainly did.
Selby was also excited to have his first dunk as a Jayhawk. It came during KU's 22-4 first-half run that broke the game open. He grabbed a steal and went down the sideline nearest the Miami bench, turning left and elevating above and past two Miami players.
Selby's one-handed tomahawk blew the roof off the barn and brought a smile to his face, not to mention that of his mom, Maeshon Witherspoon, who was among the 16,300 at the Field House.
"I'm just happy I got my legs back. I wanted to bring the rim down."
Apparently a soft-tap massage from his mom worked out some soreness incurred during what Selby said had been "the hardest practices I ever had in my life" following what Self felt was his team's lackluster performance against UT-Arlington.
The upside, though, was that the toughness of those practices – the running, the floor burns, the diving for balls – paid off Sunday as KU played their best half of the season.
"I think that sparked a fire a little bit," Selby admitted.
Self did, too.
"I thought our energy level was better (than it has been)," he said. "I thought our defensive intensity was a lot better. We went after the ball pretty hard and we dominated the glass, so that was probably the best we've looked this year over a 20-minute period."