The No. 3-ranked Kansas basketball team avoided any potential distractions that might have come with the Friday arrest of forward Carlton Bragg by cruising past Nebraska, 89-72, Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Five Jayhawks scored in double figures, including two key performers off the bench. Backup senior big man Landen Lucas contributed a personal season-best of 12 points, while adding seven rebounds and a blocked shot. Junior wing Svi Mykhailiuk, too, provided KU (9-1) with a boost against the Big Ten’s Cornhuskers (5-5), putting up 15 points as a reserve, on 6-for-11 shooting.
As usual, the Jayhawks’ three starting guards, Frank Mason III (18 points, seven assists), Devonté Graham (14 points) and Josh Jackson (17 points, six rebounds, five blocks) gave their foes fits.
See a photo gallery from Saturday's matchup between the Jayhawks and Cornhuskers at Allen Fieldhouse.
Bragg, suspended by coach Bill Self as the program and university “gather facts” on a case in which the sophomore forward was charged with battery, watched the game from the KU bench.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks’ relentless pursuit of getting the ball to the paint began wearing the Huskers down. KU might have been operating with a four-guard lineup, but that didn’t mean Self had any less interest in making sure Kansas got its paint touches.
Whether via entry pass to the lone big on the floor or by pushing the ball in transition or having one of KU’s guards drive the ball out of a set, Kansas kept coming at Nebraska and a little more than midway through the first half, the visitors’ ability to put up a fight began to fade.
A single-digit advantage ballooned to 20 by halftime as Kansas remained assertive the final eight minutes. A Mason layup gave Kansas its first double-digit lead of the game and from there Jackson, Mykhailiuk and Lucas scored inside, too, In fact, the Huskers’ defensive reaction to the KU run opened up more three-point opportunities, and Mykhailiuk, Mason and Graham each hit one from downtown in the final stretch of the first half, as well, allowing Kansas to head to the locker room up 54-34.
• Offensive highlights (and lowlight): Two of KU’s 26 first-half points in the paint came in transition with Mykhailiuk pushing the ball one-on-three against Nebraska. The 6-foot-8 junior wing took a classic Euro-step at the free-throw line to evade Glynn Watson and took the ball strong to the rack to finish.
It appeared Mykhailiuk would have a chance to top that highlight in the second half when he chased down an errant Nebraska pass near mid-court. With Jackson sprinting down the opposite side of the floor, Mykhailiuk saw a poster in the making and floated a pass off the backboard from the right side for KU’s high-flying freshman. Jackson, though hammered the dunk attempt off the back of the rim for a miss that ricocheted high into the air above the court. As one would expect, Self was not a fan of the play.
Jackson made up for that miscue in the final minutes, though, by throwing down a wicked one-handed dunk, courtesy of a perfect setup from Graham.
• Defensive highlight: Always aware of everything transpiring on the court, Graham saw an entry pass coming before Michael Jacobson even threw it in the first half. KU’s heady junior guard took the pass the other way in transition in a flash. As Graham closed in on the paint, he gave a fake pass (think Magic Johnson highlight reel) to confuse the only defender in his way, and finished at the rim for a pretty lay-in, giving KU a 27-18 advantage.
• Key stat: Field-goal percentage. Late in the first half, KU hitting 70 percent the first 20 minutes seemed in play. The Jayhawks settled for 64.7 percent though before the break, as they converted 22 of 34. Kansas shot 60 percent overall in the win, while limiting Nebraska to 39 percent.
• Up next: The Jayhawks have a week off before returning to the court in their home away from home, Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 17 for a matchup with Davidson.