For Kansas point guard Frank Mason, nothing that happened during a 79-63 victory over Maryland on Thursday could top the three-pointer he made early in the second half.
Not the layups he made to help the Jayhawks pull away from the Terrapins, not the five rebounds he grabbed and not the four assists he sent out. Not even the celebration that came with advancing to the Elite Eight.
That’s how much the shot meant to him.
“It was great to see that happen,” Mason said. “The past few games, I haven’t been knocking them down. So I was glad to see the ball go down.”
Mason has struggled from behind the arc throughout March. He didn’t make a three-pointer in either of the Jayhawks’ first two NCAA Torunament games, and he went scoreless from deep in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament.
He thought he was losing his touch after making 39 percent of his threes during the regular season. He was so desperate to gain an offensive spark that he turned superstitious. Mason changed shoes at halftime after scoring two points in 19 minutes.
“You always have to keep your confidence up, but it hasn’t been easy the past few games,” Mason said. “I haven’t been shooting well from two or three. My teammates and coaches believe in me, though. They are just showing confidence in me and that boosts my confidence.
“I am proud of those guys doing the right things and playing the right way. It feels great to help them out by making some shots.”
Mason hopes he can continue to contribute from the outside when Kansas faces Villanova on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
The 11 points he scored against Maryland were the most he has had since scoring 16 against Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
This was his best effort since then.
“He controlled the ball,” teammate Wayne Selden said. “It is hard to trap him. He is one of the best ball-handlers I have ever seen in my life. Him just being aggressive, him just being him.… That is all he has to do.”
Mason came through with so many big plays in the second half that he scored on accident.
On the game’s final possession, coach Bill Self instructed the Jayhawks to hold the ball until time expired. Mason obliged, but tossed the ball at the basket when he thought the clock hit zero. It ended up going in, and officials decided to count the basket, ruling the ball left his hands before the end of regulation.
After a slow start to the NCAA Tournament, Mason is heating up.
“No chance I meant to do that,” Mason said. “I thought the clock was going off. I went up and laid the ball up. I didn’t mean to do that on purpose at all. I thought the game was over.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett