The No. 3-ranked Kansas basketball team didn’t have to endure much of a fight until late in its first true road game of the season Thursday night at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
The Jayhawks took a permanent double-digit lead less than eight minutes in against the Runnin’ Rebels, who, like most KU opponents, had no answers for freshman sensation Josh Jackson in a 71-53 Kansas victory.
Though a couple of fouls kept Jackson on the bench for seven minutes of the first half, the 6-foot-8 guard from Detroit had a team-high of 14 points by intermission, well on his way to a game-leading 21 points.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Thursday game against the Rebels in Las Vegas.
The Rebels (7-6) tried to make a late comeback but only cut their deficit to 12 before KU junior Svi Mykhailiuk (20 points) hit a pair of key jumpers with less than 3:30 to play.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks willed their way to high-percentage shots through a large stretch of the first half.
After early 3-pointers from Frank Mason III, Jackson and Lagerald Vick helped open the floor, KU’s ensuing seven baskets came at the rim.
With Kansas (11-1) already up 12, the stretch began with a Jackson tip-in and a Jackson jam. Before long, the star freshman was at it again with a layup and another dunk.
Finally, Mykhailiuk and Carlton Bragg broke up the run of inside dominance by Jackson with layups of their own. By the time Mykhailiuk put another lay-in through the net with 3:29 left in the first half, KU led by 21.
• Offensive highlight: As if the Rebels hadn’t seen enough of Jackson’s talent in the first half, it took all of 15 seconds of playing time after the break for him to demoralize them further.
Mason (game-high eight assists) threw a lob up toward the backboard, and even though the setup wasn’t perfect, Jackson, the freakishly athletic freshman, rose up, caught the ball with one hand behind his head, and emphatically threw down a jam.
• Defensive highlight: When UNLV’s Jovan Mooring swiped a second-half steal away from Devonte’ Graham, the Rebels guard saw a wide-open floor and two easy points in front of him.
What he didn’t see was KU sophomore guard Vick tracking him down from behind. By the time Mooring left the floor for his layup try, Vick had caught him and flew upward to swat the shot away.
Less than two minutes later, that pesky Jayhawk by the name of Jackson showed up near the rim for a blocked shot of his own. Just after Kris Clyburn tracked down a miss on the offensive glass, Jackson exploded upward to thwart another would-be easy basket.
• Key stat: 3-point defense. If the Runnin’ Rebels were going to have a chance, they needed to have a hot night from long range to help their cause.
However, Kansas limited the home team to 1-for-12 shooting (8.3 percent) from beyond the arc in the first half, and UNLV didn’t fare much better down the stretch. The Rebels went 4-for-12 in the second half, bringing their final 3-point shooting to 21 percent for the game.
• Up next: The Jayhawks remain away from their home floor in Allen Fieldhouse as they open up the 2016-17 Big 12 season on the road, at TCU (11-1), on Dec. 30.
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