Saturday, December 16, 2017

KU scrapes past Nebraska to snap 2-game skid

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) huddles up the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) huddles up the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.


LINCOLN, Neb. — It had been a while — nearly five years, in fact — since Kansas basketball lost three games in a row. Playing at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks were determined to keep it that way.

In a sloppy game that never swung too much in one direction until late, the Jayhawks had just enough in the tank to snap their two-game losing streak, defeating Nebraska, 73-72, behind a career-high 26 points from Udoka Azubuike and a key 3-pointer from Svi Mykhailiuk.

Through the first 20 minutes, it was Azubuike and Devonte’ Graham who did most of the work for KU (8-2). The two scored 25 of KU’s 36 points in the period, shooting a combined 11-for-17 from the field.

KU’s next leading scorer, Lagerald Vick, had just five points at that juncture. Outside of Azubuike and Graham, KU shot just 3-for-15 in the first half and was outscored 15-11 in the final nine minutes.

It was that combination of Graham and Azubuike that threatened to help turn the tide for KU in the second half.

Azubuike reached his career-high in scoring on a dunk with six minutes to play in the period. The big man followed that possession up with a strong defensive rebound that led to a Graham assist, capping off a 9-2 run to put KU in front by seven.

Nebraska (7-5) had plenty left in the tank, eventually coming back and taking a 2-point lead with less than a minute to play, but Mykhailiuk sprung open on the left-wing and buried the game winner with just 21 seconds to play.

Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:

• The game turned when: Mykhailiuk's shot fell through the nylon.

KU threatened to pull away from its opponent at various points throughout the second half, but it was not until Mykhailiuk's shot and an Azubuike swat leading to a full-court pass to run out the clock that KU was able to seal the win.

Mykhailiuk had shot just 5-for-15 going into the final possession but gave KU the win on just his second 3-pointer of the day.

• Offensive highlight: Azubuike had no problem finding shots early, recording five field goal attempts all before the first media timeout.

The 7-foot Nigeria native missed his first field goal attempt but put in three baskets shortly after, the most emphatic of which came in the paint with just over three minutes gone from the game.

Vick floated a pass to Azubuike, who spun as he hauled it in. Having sealed off his defender, Azubuike took off from just outside the restricted area and slammed the ball into the hoop. The dunk put KU up by three and was already his second slam against 6-foot-11 Nebraska big man Jordy Tshimanga.

Azubuike finished the first half with a game-high 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He showed some nice touch on a hook shot while falling away from the basket, but did most of his damage inside. By itself, the half marked the third-most field goal attempts for Azubuike in any game in his career.

• Defensive highlight: With just over 13 minutes to play in the first half, Nebraska tried to get an easy basket on a lob to Duby Okeke.

Nebraska guard Thomas Allen lobbed the ball up, but Vick read the play like a defensive back, swooping in for an athletic steal and sprinting down the court the other way.

Vick stopped at the perimeter, delivering a no-look scoop pass to Graham on the wing. The senior buried a 3-point jumper to reach double-figures in scoring and put KU up eight, at the time its biggest lead of the day.

• Key stat: Getting to the line has not been a strength of the Jayhawks in the 2017-18 season.

While KU forced Tshimanga into foul trouble in the first half, the team only shot four free throws in the period, all of which were taken by Mitch Lightfoot.

The Jayhawks finished the game with only eight free throw attempts. They did, however, make all of them, with both Lightfoot and Graham knocking down four apiece.

• Up next: The Jayhawks will have a short turnaround, returning home to take on Omaha in Allen Fieldhouse Monday at 6 p.m. The Mavericks, currently 2-10 on the season, will actually face off against Cornell College on Sunday, Dec. 17, before taking on the Jayhawks the next day.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Nebraska

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Nebraska 72.

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Nebraska 72.


Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

I was listening to the KU radio network live stream since my Sling package doesn't carry Fox Sports 1. Brian Hanni said this game, if KU won, would be one of those wins that puts hair on your chest, and boy, did it ever. Svi did some big-time growing up. His game-winner reminds me of Keith Langford breaking Husker hearts in nearly the exact same way during the 2001-02 season.

Daniel Kennamore 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm glad we scrapped up a win, but we need to be honest. This team would be lucky to win enough games to earn a NCAAT bid at this point.

Nebraska would be the worst team in the conference if they were in the Big 12 by Kenpom metrics...and we barely won.

The semester additions better step up our game, and the rest of the team better start gelling or the NIT is going to start being a real possibility.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

You do know Nebraska upset No. 14 Minnesota earlier this month, right? Nebraska might just be better than they normally are this year.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 3 months ago

Someone needs to save this post for February so we can all laugh at Daniel's ridiculous statement.

Tom Jones 3 years, 3 months ago

I couldn't wait that long...BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!! NIT!!!!!

Barry Weiss 3 years, 3 months ago

I was so tweaked at Svi....right up until he hit the game winner.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm more hacked at Malik. He gave us nothing on offense. I don't understand why Self leaves him out there.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 3 months ago

he is struggling. looks like he will be a 4 year player.

Andy Godwin 3 years, 3 months ago

Because Garrett has dropped off significantly against better competition. If Preston had been available from the start, Self would be able to go back to 3 guards and use the bench to help motivate Newman. KU fans can only hope that Newman make the leap during the semester break because without him playing at a high level, and the lack of any game experienced for a third big (whether Preston or De Sousa), the 4 guard lineup will remain.

Adam James 3 years, 3 months ago

Agree and Svi is a defensive liability night in and night out. He has bad feet that Self has been trying to hide for years.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

Svi is not an NBA player. I remember all hoopla when he announced his decision to come to KU and play for 2 years before heading off to the NBA. Maybe a G league player or off to Europe or Australia. His underwhelming performances mixed in with a few fantastic games leave me wondering if it's talent or motivation.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree with both of you Barry and Bryce and add Marcus Garrett to the list. 16 minutes with zero points and some of the worst shooting I've seen in some time. I thought that Cunliffe could not do any worse and could have helped this team. I wonder what Sam is thinking about his decision to come to KU?

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 3 months ago

After one game (in which Self said he wouldn't play very much beforehand) I would sure hope he's not thinking "anything" about his decision yet. He'd have to be a complete moron to be regretting anything because he played 2 minutes in his first game, a game that was close throughout, and a game where no one was in foul trouble.

If he averages 2 minutes a game from here on out, we can wonder what he thinks about his decision.

Brian Skelly 3 years, 3 months ago

It certainly would appear that this is the season that the Big 12 Champs streak ends. Our "softness" as Coach pointed out has to do with our lack of depth. Running off Coleby and Whitman appears to have been a mistake. Getting Preston or the kid reclassifying would help, but I'll be curious where the puts us.

This appears to be Self's weakest team since he's been here. It's certainly the worst defensively.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 3 months ago

no doubt this is the most vulnerable team we have had in the streak. I just don't think we will do it again unless we get one or two of those big men. I sure hope Preston is enjoying that car. That deal just killed us, maybe him too. Whoever gave or sold it to him should be busted.

David Kemp 3 years, 3 months ago

This team needs help! And they need it now!

Adam James 3 years, 3 months ago

I can't remember a team that has such a difficult time scoring at the rim. I don't remember any 1/2 court possessions where we scored while driving to the basket. Our defense has so many holes and our offense is very predictable and easy to plan for. At this point if we are hoping for 2 freshman to turn things around for us, we are in trouble.

Adam James 3 years, 3 months ago

We can still win the Big 12 with this team as we have Allen Fieldhouse, but we are not built for March with or without the addition of players.

Robert Brock 3 years, 3 months ago

KU’s defense is still awful. Self knows he has a lot of work to do on this squad. It is just too easy to score against this team’s D.

Adam Bengtson 3 years, 3 months ago

I’m upset as the next fan but this game was sold out and on the road after 2 losses. This was a great experience game for like conference road game. They were hyped for this game. Wasn’t like some ho hum road game.

The defense is obvious but Newman just needs to get comfortable. We all know we just need 1 more interior body and will be fine.

Gerry Butler 3 years, 3 months ago

And when exactly can we figure on Malik getting comfortable? - -You think he might be comfortable by March? - Not really sure why the others seem to be more comfortable then Malik. - Same Ball , same court , same rim , same 5 guys on the floor Same Coach. Malik is a case as some have heard and read where this is an instance where a player has been over rated coming out of high school , nothing personal against Malik but at this point he brings nothing to the floor , Maybe him being mentioned by the media in the pre season to certain awards, maybe put to much pressure. - -I think maybe after our little tour abroad over the summer those 4 games and he went off like he did , some people thought he was going to just go off gang busters. Only one problem with that thought, defense here just a tad bit better, ya hope he gets comfortable before the season is over

Drew Doerfler 3 years, 3 months ago

i would have to agree with most posts....without preston, this is not a conference winning team, let alone a deep tourney run type of team. Our defense is average at best. I like Svi, but he really hasn't improved as a player since he has gotten here. He doesn't rebound, play defense, or make very good passes. Hopefully Newman is just getting comfortable still because he isn't giving us much of anything on the court. How bad must Cunliffe be if he can't get more than 2 minutes with Newman out there not playing very well at all. I like Garrett, but please, please, please don't take any more 3 can't shoot! Stick to your strong points. The Cornhuskers came back when they switched to the 1-3-1 and got KU uncomfortable in their offense for a little while. Really wish Self would just change up defenses for just a few possessions because this is not a great defensive team. Just to throw the other team out of their comfort zone. I've decided to just sit back and relax and enjoy the rest of the games this season without my usual expectations. Hope for them to keep winning, but not be too upset when they get beaten. Hopefully we get Preston back and it changes the whole team dynamic. Rock Chalk!

3 years, 3 months ago

was it necessary for bp to be wearing a ‘diamond’ necklace on the sideline? nice. RCJH

Larry Ralston 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow! The comments here are some of the worst I have ever seen as a life long Jayhawk! Look, all of you naysayers, you need to understand we have a short bench. With that comes games like this. Nebraska is better than most of you think. KU should have won comfortably, but, with Dok on the bench with some early foul trouble, Newman and Vick NOT contributing early, just what do you expect coach Self to do? Suit up and play himself? Obviously this is not the best team we have had, but considering the short bench, they are pretty damned good. The best part of the season is they are only going to get better and better, even if the 2 big guys don't get to join the team.

Right now it is easy to defend this team. Don't give up the 3, play a lot of zone defense, and make baskets. All it will take to break this is for Dok to continue his solid play which will open up the outside. Once they hit a few from outside,, the defense must decide what to guard, the 3 or the inside. Most teams won't be able to do both.

Do the Jayhawks need to work harder? Absolutely. It looks like their biggest problem is looking past these "mid level" teams, (I don't agree ASU is a mid level team). Maybe, this game along with the past 2 will make them aware that every team they play will draw targets on their backs and will come at them with anything and everything.

All I ask from everyone watching, listening and/or commenting, have faith and don't be so willing to throw in the towel just yet. I have faith in Graham, Vick, Svi, Dok, Newman, Lightfoot, Cunliffe and the entire coaching staff including coach Self, maybe you should too!

Marcia Parsons 3 years, 3 months ago

Thank you, Larry. That needed to be said.

Brianna Zaleski 3 years, 3 months ago

Scott Chasen, I don’t mean to be combative, but the Jayhawks weren’t determined to not lose 3 in a row, as much as they were lucky. This is not a very good team. Until we find someone to drive the basketball, we will be mediocre at best.
We were lucky to win tonight

Bill Kackley 3 years, 3 months ago

How come when on basketball blog poor defense is the players fault and when on football blog poor defense is the coaces fault?

Thomas Green 3 years, 3 months ago

Ah...because the basketball team has a winning proven Hall of Fame coach and the football team has at best a poor position coach. Does that answer your question???

Bob Bailey 3 years, 3 months ago

Yes, and his Defensive Plan won't hold water!

Bj Cassady 3 years, 3 months ago

This is a team at this point that cannot defeat OU, OSU, TCU, Baylor, Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia on the road, W Virginia, OU and Baylor will be tough outs at home. This is not your daddys KU team boys. Next year yeah, this year no, they are thin, soft have weak guard play and are just a poor team. They will win 20 but will finish 5th in the big 12. I watch every game and they don't have 'it'.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

Bj - Now that's funny. It would help to use the sarcasm font otherwise it looks like an ignorant "the sky is falling" comment and there are already way to many of those.

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