Manhattan — The road was once again kind to the Kansas basketball team Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum, where the Jayhawks’ two battle-tested seniors steered them to a 70-56 victory over rival Kansas State.
With Svi Mykhailiuk providing scoring (22 points) and rebounding (seven boards) and Devonte’ Graham (16 points, 11 assists) running the show, KU improved to 5-1 in true road games this season.
Although Wildcats junior forward Dean Wade (20 points) gave Kansas trouble at times, K-State only shot 32.3 percent on its home floor in defeat.
KU (18-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12) avoided falling into a tie atop the conference standings against a K-State team (16-6, 5-4) that had only lost by a point at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month.
Unlike the previous six Sunflower Showdowns in Manhattan, decided by single digits, Kansas won this one rather comfortably.
View a gallery from Monday night's game between the Jayhawks and Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: In spite of a dreadful offensive start to the second half — when the Jayhawks missed every one of their first 11 shots and turned the ball over twice before Mykhailiuk provided the visitors with their first post-intermission basket on a 3-pointer with 12:53 to play — Kansas got out of Manhattan with a victory.
K-State threatened, for certain, getting as close as five points, but the Jayhawks withstood the push and finished an at-times ugly rivalry game by scoring down the stretch, when they had to get points on the board.
A Malik Newman layup with 4:06 to play gave Kansas a double-digit lead for good.
A Mykhailiuk 3 less than a minute later helped the Jayahwks feel even more comfortable, and free throws from Graham and Newman in the closing minutes added to the cushion.
• Offensive highlight: KU’s unselfish first-half play.
The Jayhawks’ offense came nowhere near perfection during the opening half at K-State, with too many trips down the floor ending in turnovers (12 giveaways on 36 possessions).
But when Kansas wasn’t allowing the home team to stick around — the Wildcats scored 18 points off turnovers before the break — the Jayhawks were finding open teammates and converting. See: 70-percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
It wasn’t until Mykahiliuk swooped in for a layup off a drive from the perimeter 3:02 before halftime that a Kansas basket lacked an assist.
Each of KU’s first 13 successful shot attempts were set up by a teammate.
As one would expect, Graham set the tone, dishing seven assists in the first half, beginning with a perfect pass that allowed Lagerald Vick to catch-and-shoot on a corner 3-pointer.
Malik Newman attacked with the intention of finding teammates, too, hitting Mykhailiuk for one 3-pointer and Graham for two others.
The Jayhawks’ willingness to move the ball and get the best shot available so often allowed them to lead by as many as 15 points in the first half, despite playing their rival in as hostile an environment as they will experience all season,
As a result, KU led 40-27 at halftime despite turnover issues.
• Defensive highlight: When the name Svi Mhkhailiuk comes up, the mind doesn’t exactly call up his various defensive feats.
The 3-point-shooting senior from Ukraine came through with one to remember on Big Monday, though.
K-State sophomore forward Xavier Sneed had what looked to be a break-away jam.
Hoping to give the Wildcats’ raucous fans extra incentive to scream — what with KU already up 15-4 — Sneed cocked the ball back with his right hand, as Mykhailiuk sprinted to close in.
As Sneed tried to blow the roof off the Octagon of Doom, Mykhailiuk took off, too, and used his left hand to block the would-be dunk and avoid making contact.
Not only did Mykhailiuk deny Sneed at the rim, he swatted the ball off of Sneed, giving KU possession.
• Key stat: KU’s defense.
Though fired up for the Big Monday home date with rival Kansas, the Wildcats couldn’t find any sort of offensive flow early on, and only shot 9-for-35 (25.7 percent) from the floor in the first half.
Even Wade, the only Wildcat experiencing success on offense, shot 5-for-12 while scoring 13 of his points in the opening half and finished 8-for-18. Barry Brown (nine points) went 4-for-16.
The Kansas defense didn’t go away in the second half, either, when the perennial Big 12 champ limited K-State to 40-percent shooting (12-for-30).
• Up next: The Jayhawks head back to Lawrence for an early tip-off on Saturday, against Oklahoma State (11 a.m., CBS).