With his father, Iurri, visiting from Ukraine and sitting in the Allen Fieldhouse bleachers behind the visitor’s bench, cheering for everything from his son’s introduction to a couple of made free throws, Kansas junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk had the ball in his hands with the game on the line and gave his dad something to truly cheer about.
With the game tied and 5.6 seconds remaining, Mykhailiuk nearly fell across the inbounds line before flipping the ball to Devonte’ Graham, who quickly pitched it ahead to Mykhailiuk, whose running start set the stage for a coast-to-coast lay-in that gave third-ranked Kansas a thrilling, 90-88 win over Sunflower State rival Kansas State on Tuesday night.
After catching the ball 75 feet from the basket, Mykhailiuk raced up the left side of the floor with two dribbles, let the shot fly on the right side of the lane and watched the ball fall through the net as the horn sounded and red light popped on signifying the end of the game.
View a gallery of images from Tuesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse.
Asked, somewhat sarcastically, if the play was the one KU coach Bill Self drew up in the timeout, Mykhailiuk grinned and said he was trying to inbound the ball to Frank Mason III, who, earlier this season, beat Duke with a game-winning jumper in the Champions Classic in New York City.
Asked what went through his mind after catching the pass from Graham, Mykhailiuk said: “I was just trying to make a layup because it was an open lane.”
After the game, K-State coach Bruce Weber said he was happy with the way his team played and battled and OK with Mykhailiuk being the guy who hit the game-winner.
“I didn’t want Frank to beat us,” Weber said of the final play. “I’ve watched him too much over the years. I saw him against Duke (in November) and I wanted to take the ball out of his hands.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discussed the Jayhawks' 90-88 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday, Landen Lucas becoming more consistent and his disappointment with his team's defense.
As soon as his teammates realized Mykhailiuk was the one who would get the opportunity to win it, a variety of thoughts flashed through their heads.
“Rebound in case he missed it,” said freshman Josh Jackson, who flirted with a triple-double and finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “Just try to tip it in.”
Joked Landen Lucas: “I wanted him to throw the alley-oop to me but he made it so it’s OK.... It was a great play by Svi because it wasn’t exactly what we drew up but he improvised and made it happen.”
Following the first game-winner of his competitive career, Mykhailiuk (3-of-7 shooting for 11 points) was the picture of composure after the game, insisting that he was much happier that his shot gave his team the victory and barely even acknowledging the individual praise and mob-scene celebration that followed.
“I was just focused on the game and trying to win the game for my team,” he said, noting that he had already seen the replay on his phone while texting his father. “It’s probably at the top and it’s a great moment in my life. It feels great. But we just need to focus on the next game.”
That the Jayhawks (13-1 overall, 2-0 Big 12) were even in the position of needing Mykhailiuk’s heroics in the final seconds was a testament to the kind of game Kansas State (12-2, 1-1) played from start to finish.
The Wildcats were red hot in the first half — 54 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three-point range and 88 percent at the free throw line — yet somehow trailed by 10 at the break.
That “somehow” was classic Kansas, which matched or surpassed K-State’s hot shooting everywhere but the free throw line to build that 10-point halftime lead.
The early going had all of the elements required for the typical Kansas-pounces-on-the-Wildcats barrage that we’ve seen so many times in the past.
The Jayhawks got great effort on the offensive glass, had no problem getting out in transition and benefited from a violent, rim-rattling, soul-shaking one-handed flush from Jackson that sent the building into a frenzy and forced K-State to call a timeout with 17:08 to play.
But then a funny thing happened. The Wildcats refused to flinch and actually responded with a 15-7 run for an 21-13 lead at the 13:20 mark of the first half.
The KSU lead grew to 24-15 after a 3-pointer by freshman Xavier Sneed, but then Jackson took over, scoring two buckets inside, assisting on another and then finishing an and-one in transition to pull the Jayhawks even with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half.
“Tonight, I just felt like I was gonna come out, be aggressive, bring energy to the game and try to attack the basket a little more,” Jackson said. “And it worked out.”
That was offensively. Defensively, the Jayhawks allowed K-State to shoot 51 percent for the game and left head coach Bill Self less than thrilled about his team’s effort, calling this group the poorest defensive team he’s had since he’s been at Kansas.
Never were KU’s defensive limitations more dangerous than in the final seconds, when K-State actually got the first look at a game-winner, a 3-pointer from sophomore Dean Wade that missed just short and set the table for Mykhailiuk to win it.
“We lived on borrowed time tonight and got away with it,” Self said. “We were really luck that he missed the shot.”
Kansas returns to action at 6:15 p.m. Saturday against Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse.
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