LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Is it too soon to call him the legendary Josh Selby?
Flashing more poise and grit than even his most ardent admirers had a right to expect, the most heralded Kansas freshman since Danny Manning made his collegiate debut Saturday in stunning fashion, drilling a go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left and lifting the third-ranked Jayhawks past a scrappy USC 70-68.
``Now I think my team trusts me more and my coaches trust me more,' said the 6-foot-2 guard who spent the first nine games on the bench, serving an NCAA-ordered suspension while the Allen Fieldhouse crowd chanted, ``Free Selby! Free Selby!'
``I wasn't really worried about my individual (statistics),' said the soft-spoken Baltimore native, ranked by most recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in the nation. ``I was focused on my team.'
Selby, a point guard who played off the ball the entire game, wound up with a game-high 21 points.
``It was wonderful just to be out there playing along with my teammates, playing for the fans and the coaches,' said Selby, whose mother sat near the Kansas bench with tears in her eyes. ``It was a great environment.'
The Jayhawks (10-0) held a seemingly comfortable 10-point lead early in the first half before Donte Smith led USC (6-5) on an 11-0 run. After Jio Fontan, making his debut for the Trojans after transferring from Fordham, hit two free throws to put USC on top 68-66 with 1:36 left, the Jayhawks showed how much faith they have in their freshman prize.
After Marcus Morris put up an air ball, his twin brother Markieff rebounded and threw the ball back to Marcus.
Then the 6-9 Marcus threw the ball to Selby. With the game and the team-record 64-game home winning streak on the line, the junior who's led the Jayhawks in scoring all season chose to put the ball in the hands of a freshman playing his first college game.
And the freshman did not disappoint.
``There was no way he was passing that last one,' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ``That ball was going up.'
USC called time out with 20.7 seconds to go and then inbounded the ball. But Fontan stepped out of bounds right in front of the USC bench and Kansas inbounded with 6.4 seconds left in just about the most harrowing of the wins during the streak.
``I'm sure he stepped out,' USC coach Kevin O'Neill said of Fontan. ``It's his first game of the year. He got a little too close to the sideline.'
Selby, also ordered by the NCAA to pay a $4,607.58 fine for accepting impermissible benefits, came off the bench about 4 minutes into the game and got thunderous applause from the capacity crowd of 16,300 when he hit his first two from beyond the 3-point arc. He had a team-high 10 points when Kansas went into halftime with a 31-20 lead.
Smith had 20 points for USC. Alex Stepheson added 18 and Fontan 15.
``He won out there,' Fontan said of Selby. ``It's as simple as that. No matter how many points he had or how many I had. He hit a big 3. Josh Selby played really well today. I just hope we can walk away and understand that we're right up there with those guys.'
After Selby's 3-pointer, Tyrel Reed made a free throw for the final margin as Kansas extended its home-court winning streak to 65 games.
``We had our chances,' O'Neill said. ``We were a couple of offensive rebounds away from winning the game. Kansas really hung in there and played well.'
Selby immediately showed off his smooth, pretty jump shot by making his first two 3-point attempts. He also showed a few defensive lapses and fumbled the ball out of bounds under the Kansas basket the first time he touched it.
Kansas held a 39-30 rebounding edge over the Trojans, who had outrebounded their first 10 opponents.
Self said Selby would continue to play off the ball and let Tyshawn Taylor play the point - for now.
``I think he was nervous. I don't think he was as nervous as his mom,' said Self, who has often praised the family for the gracious way they've handled these past difficult months.
There was some question whether Selby would be declared ineligible for the entire season.
``They said mom was crying when they ran out for pre-shooting before the warmups,' Self said. ``But their family's been through a lot. She's done a remarkable job. This was a special day for them.'
The Associated Press News Service
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