Kansas City, Mo. Sure, the No. 5-ranked Kansas basketball team utilized its much discussed four-guard lineup options Monday night at Sprint Center against UAB. Really, though, the Jayhawks leaned on just three of their perimeter players on the first day of the CBE Classic.
Senior Frank Mason III, junior Devonté Graham and freshman Josh Jackson combined to score nearly 70 percent of their team’s points in a 83-63 victory in front of a pro-KU crowd.
The trio of guards combined for 33 of the Jayhawks’ 39 points in the first half and the trend didn’t change all that much down the stretch, as Jackson scored a game-high 22, Mason finished with 20 and Graham added 16.
Sophomore backup wing Svi Mykhailiuk got his three-point shot rolling late in the victory, finishing with 15 points on 4-for-5 shooting from deep.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Monday night game against the Blazers at Sprint Center.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: It started.
You wouldn’t know it by the halftime score — KU 39, UAB 30 — but the Jayhawks dominated the game’s opening minutes, putting up the first 17 points, with dunks, layups and open three-pointers.
The Blazers didn’t even get a shot to fall from the floor until midway through the first half, when Chris Cokley’s layup ended an 0-for-12 shooting stretch that ate up the first 10 minutes.
The Jayhawks led 25-3 before that, and though UAB proved to be a far more formidable opponent than it showed early on, at one point trimming the deficit to five before intermission, the damage had been done.
With Jackson throwing down two slams and Bragg another in the opening run, both Mason and Jackson scoring inside on layups, and Graham cashing in from downtown three times, UAB would’ve needed a miracle to claw out of a 22-point hole.
• Offensive highlight: Can the most electric play of the night really come less than 15 seconds after the opening tip?
Jackson seemed to think it could.
Kansas opened the game in a standard offensive set, involving some dribble-handoffs and a weave at the top of the key. You know the play.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self talks about his team's quick start in an eventual 83-63 victory over UAB in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Josh Jackson's career high 22 points and much more.
When Jackson’s turn for a touch came, he spotted plenty of daylight in the last place one would expect to find it — right down the lane. The 6-foot-8 freshman gladly accepted the invitation and easily drove to the rim, taking off for an emphatic right-handed slam that set the tone.
Still, Jackson found a way to top himself late in the second half, challenging UAB big man Tosin Mehinti at the rim on a strong drive. Jackson drew the contact and hammered home a nasty jam on his way to a three-point play.
• Defensive highlight: Carlton Bragg could’ve blocked the shot with his elbow if he liked. Or tried to catch it in his mouth. Or done just about whatever he so chose with it. He took the traditional route early in the first half, and swatted a Hakeem Baxter jumper toward KU’s end of the floor.
Next, a four-Jayhawk sprint broke out to see who might finish a transition opportunity with a highlight.
Jackson grabbed the ball off Bragg’s block on the move and a four-on-two finished as quickly as it began with Jackson getting the ball back from Vick for another one-handed rim attack, increasing KU’s lead to 22-3.
Bragg’s denial was one of just four blocks for the Jayhawks, and proved the most memorable.
• Key stat: Three-point shooting. The Jayhawks had struggled from behind the arc so far this season, but found their bombs more likely to connect in Kansas City. With Graham, Mykhailiuk and Mason leading the way, Kansas shot 12-for-27 from long range, providing a nice cushion for its semifinal victory.
• Up next: The Jayhawks are right back at Sprint Center Tuesday night to face Georgia, which beat George Washington, 81-73, in the other CBE Classic semifinal. J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten scored 18 points apiece to lead the Bulldogs (3-1).
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