Nearly four years ago, at the age of 16, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk had a life-altering decision to make.
Already an accomplished youth basketball player within Ukraine’s national team program, as well as the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague, it was time for Mykhailiuk to pick:
• Stick with the established protocol for promising young European talents, and sign to play professionally.
• Or head to the U.S. and take a crack at college basketball.
Upon seriously contemplating his options, it came down to relocating to Spain to join Real Madrid or migrating even farther west to play at the University of Kansas.
Mykhailiuk, now known as “Svi” by anybody associated with the KU basketball program, of course, opted for a decision that may have seemed odd to his contemporaries at the time.
“Most of them try to stay there and make money,” he related this past week, during the last days of his four seasons with the Jayhawks.
Reflecting on his unique basketball path now, is the 6-foot-8 guard from Cherkasy, Ukraine, glad he chose Lawrence, Kansas, and college over Madrid, Spain, and a contract?
“Yeah, for sure,” Mykhailiuk replied, without hesitation. “I met a lot of new people. I’ll be able to get a degree from Kansas and just be a part of a program like Kansas and make it to the Final Four.”
KU and 15th-year head coach Bill Self couldn’t have reached college basketball’s ultimate weekend for the first time since 2012 without Mykhailiuk. The senior guard’s 236th 3-pointer as a Jayhawk tied an Elite Eight matchup against Duke with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation, allowing Kansas to reach overtime and eventually emerge victorious.
Further memorable baskets wouldn’t follow in a national semifinal loss to Villanova, in San Antonio. Mykhailiuk completed his KU journey with 10 points and three assists, in defeat.
He shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range as a senior and leaves the program with the current record for 3-point makes in a season (115). The final “Svi for 3,” in his 136th game and 70th start, moved him to fourth place all-time at KU for 3-pointers in a career, with 237.
Even more important to Mykhailiuk, he can now proceed to the professional ranks confident his experience at Kansas shaped him into a better player.
“Being here four years, being coached by Coach Self, and he’s a hall of famer,” Mykhailiuk said, “so I think if I hadn’t got here I wouldn’t have played for a hall of famer.”
Self thought so highly of his Ukrainian recruit that he even tried the freshman out as a starter at the age of 17. Although that move didn’t stick past a six-game stretch of the 2014-15 non-conference schedule, Mykhailiuk said his relationship with Self only improved from that point. By his sophomore and junior years, Mykhailiuk noticed Self pulling him aside during practices for more and more conversations.
“If I’m open, he always wants me shooting the ball, no matter what,” Mykhailiuk shared of how Self boosted his confidence. “He’s always telling me, ‘Just be a player.’”
The shooting, passing, rebounding and defensive reps could have come anywhere. Mykhailiuk feels grateful his took place at Kansas these past four years, because he learned more about how to be an impactful player as a result.
“It’s all about the mental part. It’s not about physicality and stuff,” he said of some of his biggest lessons. “It’s just about how bad you want it and how much you’re ready.”
After testing the NBA’s draft waters a year ago, Mykhailiuk determined he wasn’t yet prepared to leave college basketball behind. Attending the league’s combine and receiving feedback from scouts, coaches and general managers proved beneficial in his development, too.
“I think it just helped me mentally, knowing I can play against other people. And it helped me know what I’ve got to do to go to the next level and be a better player,” he said.
Mykhailiuk took all the information from Self and NBA decision-makers and turned it into a second-team All-Big 12 season. He averaged career-highs with 14.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.9 3-point makes per game.
“Just be more aggressive,” Mykhailiuk said of the most significant piece of advice he carried with him into his final season, “and do whatever you can to help your team.”
Still just 20 years old (he’ll turn 21 in June), Mykhailiuk projects as a mid-second-round pick in the 2018 draft, four years after he could have become a young pro in Europe. Other than Ukrainian teammate Ilya Tyrtyshnik, who played at Ole Miss this past season, most of his peers chose a more typical basketball path.
What made Mykhailiuk different?
“That’s just me,” he said. “Every person’s different. I just wanted to play NCAA.”
Omaha, Neb. — As top-seeded Kansas enters its Sweet 16 matchup with Clemson, a board on a wall inside the Jayhawks’ locker room back home feels more relevant than ever.
Sometimes it is referenced, other times just thought of but unmentioned. Either way, it has been on the minds of KU’s players this week.
The essence of the board inside Allen Fieldhouse traveled easily to CenturyLink Center. KU coach Bill Self mentioned its message on the eve of his players’ next NCAA Tournament game: the Jayhawks could have one day left in their season, or they could keep playing for 11 more.
“It’s pretty simple,” sophomore Mitch Lightfoot related. “We go out here and compete and we can win and keep this team together. I think that’s what we all want. It’s a pretty close, tight-knit team. We’re looking to go out there and play for each other.”
The board displays various other significant countdowns, too, for easy referral as the Jayhawks grind their way through the season.
“It shows how many days left ’til the Final Four, how many days left ’til this, left ’til that,” Lightfoot shared on Thursday. “Everything else is erased. There’s no days left ’til the Big 12 tournament, there’s no days left ’til the NCAA Tournament. It’s here. The Final Four’s up there, and I think we all understand that it’s either one day left of 11 days left with this team, and we all take that to heart. I think we go out there and play that much harder for each other.”
While Self has brought up the dwindling number of days left on the college basketball calendar, Lightfoot said it hasn’t necessarily become a talking point from KU’s seniors, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Clay Young.
If he were in their adidas, Lightfoot probably wouldn’t want to make it a constant topic of discussion either.
“I just think they love this place so much. Svi, Clay, D’tae, they’ve given so much to this organization, and I think it’s gonna be hard for them to leave,” Lightfoot said. “I think we’re going to go out there and play for them and send them out right.”
Mykhailiuk said the seniors are keenly aware of both how close they are to their ultimate goal of cutting down nets in San Antonio and just how quickly their careers could come to an abrupt, undesired conclusion.
“It’s one or 11, so we’ve just got to leave it on the court and on the practice court,” Mykhailiuk said. “It might be one day we could be with each other or it might be 11 left. We don’t know. We’ve got to take it as a last practice or last game. We’ve got to leave it on the court and compete as hard as we can.”
Because Mykhailiuk and Graham have played on the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight stages each of the past two seasons, they know better than any of their teammates what type of efforts the Jayhawks will need to get past Clemson. But the senior from Ukraine wasn’t worried those of his teammates who will be asked to perform on this stage for the first time. He trusts they grasp the gravity of the situation.
“I think everybody knows. Coach has been talking about this to us and I think everybody realizes how important it is,” Mykhailiuk said, “and how important it is to come prepared and know what you’re doing and compete as hard as we can to get a win.”
The offensive lifeblood of a four-guard lineup, 3-pointers — sometimes just the mere threat of them — space the floor for Kansas, give 7-footer Udoka Azubuike space to dominate on touches in the paint and have helped make a third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 possible.
Of their 81.4 points per game this year, the Jayhawks average 30.1 from behind the arc (22nd in Division I). In other words, their opponents know KU’s guards would like nothing more than to drown them in a deluge of 3-pointers.
With foes doing everything within their powers to limit one of this Kansas team’s most effective weapons, timing and precision are vital for getting the best look at the basket possible while rising up from long range. Within an offense that revolves around ball screens, dribble hand-offs and drive-and-kicks it sure helps to have senior point guard Devonte’ Graham penetrating and distributing.
Among the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament, Graham’s 7.5 assists per game on the season lead all players. While plenty of those dimes come on fast breaks or alley-oops for KU bigs, the guards who play alongside Graham are thankful his kick-out passes allow them to consistently catch and shoot in one fluid motion.
So what percentage of Graham’s deliveries to 3-point shooters are perfect?
Junior Lagerald Vick briefly paused to calculate before responding, with a grin: “I would say about 99.7 of those are right on the money. I definitely think he’s a good passer, especially off penetration and kick.”
A more generous grader, senior Svi Mykhailiuk went ahead and gave Graham a 100.
“I think every time,” Mykhailiuk said. “He knows where I’m going to be and he just passes to me and I’m gonna make a shot.”
In KU’s second-round victory over Seton Hall, Graham didn’t have his typical shooting touch, but he assisted on 4 of his team’s 9 successful 3-pointers.
Two days earlier, the Jayhawks only made 7 from deep while defeating Penn. Graham assisted on three and made two 3-pointers.
Per Synergy Sports, Kansas has averaged 17.76 points in its first two NCAA Tournament victories off Graham assists alone — 2.4 points for every dish that sets up a basket.
Playing to his roster’s strengths, coach Bill Self has the Jayhawks (29-7) run a lot of ball-screen offense. While Graham is a strong 3-point shooter (his 40.4% accuracy ranks 60th in the country), it often falls on the lead guard to make sure senior Mykhailiuk (45.5%, 10th nationally), sophomore Malik Newman (40.9%) and Vick (37.8%) get the ball in advantageous situations once he begins attacking off the dribble.
“You’ve got to make the defense commit to you and I’ve got to find my guys for open shots,” Graham said.
Occasionally, every step of the process comes easily. On one possession against Penn, Graham turned the corner off a Mitch Lightfoot ball screen, drove to the paint and hit Vick, spotting up nearby in the right corner, for a perfect look.
Other times, Graham has to get more crafty.
In one second-half sequence versus Seton Hall, Graham dribbled left off a pick from Azubuike, drawing the attention of four Pirates defenders as he made his way into the paint. Their resulting rotation accounted for Vick in the right corner, which is where his opponents assumed Graham would look.
Instead he bounced a pass through a gap in the defense, all the way out to the right wing for a wide-open Newman 3-pointer.
Of course, Graham knows how to set up teammates for 3-pointers in every way imaginable.
While facing Penn, Graham misfired on a floater he released in the paint. When the ball rimmed out and found its way back to his hands for an offensive rebound, a little court awareness and quick improvisation paid off.
Graham knew where Vick was when he released his shot, so he easily kicked the ball out to his teammate near the left corner upon securing the rebound. Making the best of his circumstances, the point guard’s hustle set up an easy 3-pointer.
“He’s been a pretty good passer since I’ve known him, even when I came my freshman year when he was at the 2,” Vick said, referring to Graham’s days playing with Frank Mason III. “He’s a good passer.”
Graham’s recognition and vision prove valuable in transition, as well. Off a defensive rebound against Seton Hall, with nine players in front of him on the court, Graham knew KU had the spacing on the break for Newman to get an open 3-pointer on the left wing.
The senior point guard also trusted the shot would drop, raising his hands into the air to signal a successful 3 as Newman went into his shooting motion.
Graham’s familiarity with his fellow guards leads to such trust — as well as to so many accurate passes.
“Just playing with them, game experience, knowing where they like the ball at,” Graham said of how his passes so often generate 3-pointers, “and just tying to get it to them where they can just catch and shoot it before the defense goes out.”
Ahead of Friday’s Sweet 16 showdown with Clemson, in Omaha, Neb. (6:07 p.m., CBS), Vick, Mykhailiuk and Newman have combined to make 13 of 26 3-pointers in the tournament. Vick said their confidence as shooters is growing as a result, “especially with the big fella (Azubuike) back.”
Although Graham missed all four of his 3-point tries against Seton Hall after making 3 of 8 in the first round, his fellow guards have him to thank for much of their offensive impact.
“I would just say he knows how to play,” Mykhailiuk said, “and knows how to pass. He’s been doing this his whole life, so I guess he’s pretty good at it.”
Not even Naismith Award finalists can do it all every single night.
When Kansas star guard Devonte’ Graham’s shots weren’t falling in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks knew they could look elsewhere and find the scoring they needed to survive.
After Graham knocked down a jumper in the opening minutes Saturday night versus Seton Hall, not one of the six field-goal attempts that followed would drop for KU’s leading scorer.
No big deal. The other three guards in the starting lineup had their floor general’s back. Graham may have only provided eight points, but sophomore Malik Newman, senior Svi Mykhailiuk and junior Lagerald Vick combined for 57 as Kansas advanced to the Sweet 16.
“That’s what we do,” Graham, who averages 17.4 points a game, said matter-of-factly following the fourth single-digit scoring outing of his senior season. “If somebody’s having an off night, somebody’s got to step up, and they did a good job of knocking down shots and being aggressive.”
During a nine-assist night for Graham, he liked the way fellow senior Mykhailiuk (7-for-16 shooting, 2 of 5 on 3-pointers, 16 points, three assists) kept getting to the paint and making plays.
In the final four minutes of the victory that moved top-seeded Kansas on to the Midwest regional semifinals, it was Newman (8-of-14 shooting, 4 of 8 from 3-point range, 28 points, two assists) hitting a must-have 3-pointer, going 8 of 8 at the foul line and finding Mykhailiuk for a clutch 3-pointer that stretched the lead to eight with 1:20 to go.
“Everybody was just being aggressive and being a threat,” Graham said proudly.
Following his fifth straight double-digit scoring game, Vick (5-for-9 shooting, 3 of 4 on 3-pointers, 13 points) echoed the point guard’s reference to an assertive backcourt approach. The 6-foot-5 junior from Memphis scored eight points in a row for Kansas during a 2:09 stretch of the second half.
“We just, all us guards had a talk. We’re the head of the team so we knew everybody had to step up and make plays for each other,” Vick said. “We all just played off each other and were bringing energy.”
Even though Graham went from the 7:57 mark of the first half until the 7:52 mark in the second half without scoring a point for Kansas (29-7), Mykhailiuk said his four-year teammate’s floor game kept Graham as an essential component of KU’s success.
“If he’s on the court he just gives us confidence. He just controls the tempo of the game. He’s a point guard, so he doesn’t need to score, he doesn’t need to get assists,” Mykhailiuk added. “He just needs to do what he does and tell us what to do.”
During the regular season, a low-scoring game from Graham only cost KU a victory once — Dec. 6, when he shot 1 of 8 and scored three points against Washington’s 2-3 zone in a 74-65 defeat. The Jayhawks rolled against South Dakota State in November, when Graham finished with eight points, and they won an SEC-Big 12 Challenge encounter at Allen Fieldhouse with Texas A&M, when Graham’s 2-for-11 shooting left him with eight points.
Every aspect of the regular season prepares college basketball teams for the madness that awaits in March — even if those lessons don’t seem helpful at the time.
As Kansas moves on to Omaha, Neb., for a Friday matchup with Clemson (25-9), Graham’s teammates aren’t exactly worried about his scoring output moving forward. And if they need to pick up the slack in the points column, they won’t have any reason to panic.
“He still did good,” Mykhailiuk said of the team leader’s uncharacteristic showing in the second round. “He did all he could, and sometimes shots are just not falling down. So it’s a part of the game. I bet he’s gonna play better next time.”
Graham followed his three regular-season single-digit scoring games with 17 points against Texas Southern in a home win, 19 points versus Arizona State in a home loss and 16 points in a road victory at Kansas State.
The No. 6-ranked team in the nation, Kansas sent seniors Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk out in style on Big Monday, with an 80-70 win over Texas in the Jayhawks’ Allen Fieldhouse finale.
KU (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big 12) at times overwhelmed the undermanned Longhorns, even out-rebounding the visitors 37-30 — just the Jayhawks’ third positive margin in that category during league play.
Here are five more statistics that stood out for Kansas, on a night the program wrapped up an 18th outright Big 12 championship and finished the home portion of the schedule with a victory for the 35th consecutive season.
So many quality shots
A game that in the first half felt as if a blowout was just a spurt or two away never got there because Kansas didn’t play particularly well down the final stretch, with 9 turnovers after halftime.
Still, the Jayhawks had little reason to feel threatened — even when Texas cut the lead to 6 early in the second half — because KU’s players kept searching for the high-percentage shots the Longhorns’ defense would allow them.
Kansas, a team that entered the night shooting a respectable 46.9% from the field in Big 12 play, made 60.6% of its shots in the first half and an even 60% in the second.
This game didn’t have the drubbing factor of KU’s win over Oklahoma a week earlier, but the Jayhawks showed the same offensive persistence.
Points in the paint
A direct result of their determination, the Jayhawks always felt comfortable because they kept finishing possessions with dunks (9) and layups (13).
The Jayhawks achieved 50 paint points for just the second time this season, putting up 52 inside against a Mo Bamba-less Texas team. Previously in conference play, KU had only reached 40 points in the category three times — twice against Oklahoma and once versus Iowa State — doing so against two of the Big 12’s worst defenses.
Udoka Azubuike proved uncontrollable for UT, shooting 10 of 11 and coming through with rim-shaking dunks six different times.
His teammates who don’t have the size and frame to slam so effortlessly settled for an array of layups, as well as a few wide-open dunks.
Freshman Marcus Garrett scored 6 of his 11 points off layups. Sophomore backup big Mitch Lightfoot scored all 6 of his points at the rim, via two dunks and a lay-in. Malik Newman, on a 4-for-9 shooting night, picked up one layup and one jam. Mykhailiuk scored two lay-ins on the way to 17 points. Graham spent most of the night distributing 11 assists but scored a layup, too. Junior Lagerald Vick made two shots all night, both in the paint. Freshman Silvio De Sousa scored his one basket on a putback.
Kansas scored 56% of its points off layups and dunks, winning points in the paint, 52-38.
Scouting report defense
At times the Jayhawks had issues with trying to stop two of the Longhorns’ most athletic finishers, big man Jericho Sims (6-for-9 shooting) and Kerwin Roach II (7 of 15).
Playing minus Bamba and Eric Davis Jr., the Longhorns only had so many options on offense.
Kansas welcomed two of UT’s least effective scorers to take a bulk of the shots and defended them appropriately to come away with stops. Longhorns big Dylan Osetkowski made just 5 of 14 shots, while Jacob Young finished 6 of 13.
Outside of Sims and Roach, the rest of the Longhorns combined to hit 16 of 44 shots (36.4%).
40 Minutes Double-Double
Look out, Azubuike. Mr. 40 Minutes is coming for your double-double crown.
For the 15th time this season, Graham played every minute for Kansas. In his fieldhouse finale, the senior point guard put up 10 points and 11 assists, his fourth double-double of the season.
Sophomore 7-footer Azubuike leads the team with five double-doubles this year.
With one game left in the regular season and the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments to follow, who would you expect to finish the season as KU’s double-double leader? It’s hard to bet against Graham.
On the season, Graham is averaging 17.7 points and 7.2 assists, while Azubuike is contributing 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Mykhailiuk is making a habit of igniting KU’s offense early in games.
With 14 first-half points on 6-for-9 shooting during the first 20 minutes, the senior from Ukraine scored 13 or more points before intermission for the eighth time this season.
Whether driving in to finish inside or showing off his smooth 3-point stroke (45% accuracy as a senior), Mykhailiuk’s offense so often is just what Kansas needs to get rolling.
After making 3 of 5 from 3-point distance in the win, Mykhailiuk has drained 95 from long range this season, the fourth-most in KU history.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas
- Senior Night Special: Jayhawks cruise to win over Texas, clinch outright Big 12 title
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks sidestep several obstacles to 14th straight Big 12 title
- Notebook: Graham, Newman earn Big 12 weekly awards; Texas guard Andrew Jones leaves hospital
- KU basketball’s red uniforms a request of “Number 4”
- The Keegan Ratings: Sophomore Udoka Azubuike tops ratings on Senior Night in victory vs. Texas
- KU seniors shut down fieldhouse for season with 80-70 win over Texas
The No. 8-ranked Kansas Jayhawks headed to No. 6 Texas Tech this weekend armed with the knowledge it would take a complete performance to win on the road and accomplish something special.
And then they went out and made it happen.
KU secured at least a share of an unprecedented 14th consecutive conference championship, edging the Red Raiders, 74-72, on Saturday .
The Jayhawks (23-6 overall, 12-4 Big 12) shot 50% from the field in an opponent’s arena for just the second time this year to take a two-game lead on Tech (22-7, 10-6) with two games to play.
Here are five statistics that fueled KU’s title-securing road victory.
Graham steals the show
Devonte’ Graham went to Lubbock, Texas, to win a Big 12 title and cement his case for conference player of the year. The senior point guard didn’t state his intentions ahead of the anticipated showdown with Texas Tech, but he sure showed them in the decisive half.
The Jayhawks converted 10 field goals over the game’s final 20 minutes and Graham provided 7 of them. Not done there, Graham also assisted on 2 other KU baskets, with passes to Mitch Lightfoot and Malik Newman.
Graham’s pair of second-half 3-pointers — one at the 8:30 mark and another with 4:40 left — both pushed KU’s lead to 8, the largest margins of the final half.
The Jayhawks’ floor general and team leader scored 18 of KU’s 33 second-half points off 7-for-13 shooting, while the rest of the Jayhawks were a combined 3 of 12.
No deficit for Kansas
Let’s be honest. Who would have predicted the Jayhawks would play on Texas Tech’s home floor and not trail for a single second?
The Red Raiders had won 17 straight inside United Supermarkets Arena. It seemed unfathomable, but Tech played the entire 40 minutes without ever taking a lead against Kansas.
Three-pointers from Svi Mykhailiuk and Graham fueled an 8-0 Kansas start. And though the Red Raiders would eventually tie the game at 68 with 2:32 left in the second half, KU’s defense forced turnovers on the home team’s next two possessions, while Graham scored twice, pushing the Jayhawks’ lead back out to 4.
Prior to that, each time Tech threatened to take momentum while making it a one-possession game, the Jayhawks had an answer. Whether it was a bucket from Graham for an old school 3-point play, a Newman 3-pointer of a Graham layup, Kansas always found a way to keep Texas Tech down, as the home team shot 36.7% from the floor in the second half.
Udoka Azubuike didn’t have one of his more memorable games, finishing with just 6 points and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes. But it’s just as important for Kansas that the 7-foot center take an active approach defensively.
Was the big man perfect? No. But a good way to measure the effort he’s exerting is by tracking his results on the defensive glass. Azubuike finished a KU stop with a defensive board 6 times. It was just the fifth time in Big 12 play this year he reached that total.
The Red Raiders challenged Azubuike, making him work for position and rebounds, and he often responded correctly. The sophomore center jumped as high as he ever has for a few rebounds.
On another occasion, he battled a Red Raider to smack a missed Tech shot into the hands of Newman, who got credit for the rebound in the box score. Early in the second half, he hustled back on defense to take away a potential Tech layup, and in doing so forced Tommy Hamilton IV into a turnover. With just more than a minute to play, Azubuike and Mykhailiuk trapped Zach Smith on the baseline, pressuring him into a pass out of bounds and an untimely giveaway.
Plus, Azubuike swatted away three Red Raiders shots, denying Smith twice and Culver another time inside.
Tech kept KU’s massive sophomore from his typical array of powerful dunks, but Azubuike didn’t let any frustrations with his lack of offense carry over to every aspect of his game. He can, and needs to be, better on the defensive glass (see: Tech’s 15 offensive rebounds), but Azubuike’s motor seems to be becoming more consistent.
Texas Tech star Keenan Evans hasn’t been himself since injuring a toe the week before Saturday’s meeting with Kansas. To Evans’ credit, the senior is attempting to play through pain. But the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Red Raiders.
For the third straight game, Evans’ hampered toe made him less effective, and for the third straight game his team lost by single digits.
Evans played 31 minutes against Kansas, the most for Tech’s primary guard since hurting his toe, but made just 1 of 6 shots from the floor and 4 of 6 free throws, finishing with 6 points and 3 assists.
In the seven games before suffering the injury during a loss to Baylor, Evans averaged 24.6 points and 3.7 assists. He hasn’t been able to play as assertively since. Would Tech have defeated BU and Oklahoma State with a healthy Evans? Would KU have been able to win on Tech’s floor with the Red Raiders’ best player at full strength? We’ll never know for sure, but KU certainly has benefited in the standings from the inconvenient timing of Evans’ setback.
Svi’s hot start
In a game between the Big 12’s two best teams, Kansas led by as many as 11 points on the road before halftime because Texas Tech couldn’t stop Mykhailiuk in the first half.
The senior guard from Ukraine helped his team build confidence early, knocking down three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes. Mykhailiuk scored a first-half best 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting and also assisted a Graham 3-pointer, a Lightfoot basket and an Azubuike jam before intermission.
Mykhailiuk finished with 21 points, second only to Graham’s game-high 26, and tied with Graham for the game’s highest assist total, with 4. Fitting that two seniors carry Kansas to a historic accomplishment.
The No. 8-ranked Kansas Jayhawks put triple digits on the scoreboard against Oklahoma, treating the Sooners like a non-conference visitor to Allen Fieldhouse in a Big Monday drubbing.
The 104-74 victory marked KU’s first 100-point game in Big 12 play since the triple-overtime classic against the Sooners in 2016, and the team’s fourth time reaching the century mark this season — the others came versus Texas Southern, Oakland and Omaha.
From a surprisingly impactful Silvio De Sousa, to a classic 23-point, seven-assist night for Devonte’ Graham, Kansas made everything look easy while taking a half-game lead in the league standings over Texas Tech.
Here are five statistics that made the Jayhawks’ rout of Oklahoma possible.
Devastating second half
Remember when OU cut KU’s lead to seven points early in the second half? Yeah, neither do I. But it happened.
The Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12) so thoroughly dominated during the stretch run the game felt like a blowout from start to finish.
KU made 62.5% of its second-half shots by exposing OU’s subpar defense over and over again. If the Sooners gave a shooter too much space outside, the Jayhawks knocked in 3-pointers (7 of 12). If a driving angle or entry pass to the paint presented itself, Kansas gladly took a layup. KU scored 10 points off lay-ins and 12 points via dunks during the course of the second half.
Kansas scored 26 points in the paint over the course of the final 20 minutes, making it easy to put up 55 points — only the second time the team has put up 50 or more in a half during league play.
This is not a typo: Kansas finished with 13 more rebounds than Oklahoma.
In years past, such a margin in KU’s favor would barely inspire a reaction. But this year’s Jayhawks do not pound the glass the way most Bill Self teams have.
Kansas was out-rebounded in 15 of its previous 16 games before Udoka Azubuike (8 boards) and Svi Mykhailiuk (7 rebounds) helped the home team gather 38, to OU’s 25.
Sharing rebounding responsibilities seemed to be a good sign, too. Lagerald Vick chipped in 6 (his most since Jan. 13), Graham added five and freshman big De Sousa came through with a career-best 6, as well.
If Azubuike isn’t going to routinely snag 10 or more boards (he’s averaging 7.1 on the season, 6.4 in Big 12 games), every KU player who steps on the court is going to have to help out.
Subs provide a spark
KU’s lack of depth has proven to be one of the team’s weaknesses this season. As a result, the Jayhawks more often than not have lacked production off the bench.
The Jayhawks came up short in head-to-head bench points in 11 of their first 14 conference games. That problem went away, at least for one night, against Oklahoma, as the Kansas substitutes outperformed OU’s backups 18-8.
De Sousa, with his perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the floor and 4-for-4 success at the free-throw line for 10 points, outscored the Oklahoma bench by himself.
Neither Marcus Garrett (2 points), nor Mitch Lightfoot (4 points) had a particularly impactful night on offense, but if KU can now get significant help from one of those two or De Sousa every game that would qualify as a great late-season development.
Nothing easy for Young
Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young put together a remarkable 26-point, 9-assist show in the Sooners’ January win over Kansas, but had no such luck in the rematch.
KU harassed Young and made him work for every inch at Allen Fieldhouse. OU’s star point guard made just 3 of 13 shots, scored a career-low 11 points and turned the ball over 5 times in 35 minutes in the blowout.
Even when Young got by a perimeter defender the help defense stepped up to make sure he didn’t get into a flow with a layup.
Four of Young’s misses came when a Kansas big blocked his attempt. Lightfoot denied Young once and Azubuike swatted the star freshman three different times.
As a result, Young made just 2 of 6 layups in the loss.
No more slump for Svi
Just 7 of 26 (26.9%) in his previous four games, a stretch during which he averaged just 5.5 points — almost a full 10 points below his 15.4 average for the season — Mykhailiuk got back on track against OU’s lackluster defense.
The senior from Ukraine scored 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting and drained 4 of 7 3-pointers, his most from long range since making 5 of 9 at Kansas State on Jan. 29.
The slump was an anomaly for Mykhailiuk, whom Self has praised for his consistent effort and attitude all season long. With just three games left in the regular season, the Jayhawks couldn’t have picked a better time to get their senior shooter (88 for 196 on 3-pointers this year) back on track.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oklahoma
- Silvio De Sousa keeps it simple as Jayhawks rout Oklahoma
- Tom Keegan: Devonte’ Graham makes his case for best player in Big 12 against Oklahoma
- Sherron Collins fights tears during jersey retirement ceremony
- The Keegan Ratings: Devonte' Graham tops ratings in blowout of Oklahoma
- Matt Tait's Postgame Report Card
- Jayhawks blow out Oklahoma, 104-74, on Big Monday
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the strangest stat lines of the season, Kansas senior Svi Mykhailiuk, a 21-time double-digit scorer this season, played 36 minutes against TCU earlier this week and only attempted two field goals.
One missed 3-pointer less than 5 minutes into the game. One missed layup before the midway mark of the first half. And not one more shot the rest of the way for a skilled 6-foot-8 scorer who, even after a 1-point performance, is averaging 16.4 points a game.
Sure, Mykhailiuk had experienced off shooting nights this season for the Jayhawks. He only hit 3 of 12 shots and scored 8 points in a loss to Washington. He was a 3-for-10 shooter on his way to 7 points in a home win against Baylor. But two field goal attempts? From a player that so often has played confidently while both draining 3-pointers and driving to the paint?
Maybe KU coach Bill Self got a better sense of what happened after reviewing the game footage, because he didn’t really know what to make of it immediately after the Jayhawks’ 71-64 victory Tuesday night.
“You know what, not really,” Self said Thursday afternoon. “Watching the tape, I don't know that he felt great. He did not look visibly himself. I don't know if anybody else noticed that. There was something. I’m not saying sick-sick. He just didn't seem quite energetic or talkative or himself. When other teams take you away like TCU did, then you’ve got to be able to work through that and adjust.”
Unlike so many previous KU opponents, TCU’s defenders didn’t experience numerous mental lapses and leave a 46.3-percent 3-point shooter open on the perimeter. Mykhailiuk surely would have fired away as usual if the Frogs had been so careless — even if he was a tad under the weather, an excuse Self said Mykhailiuk didn’t even consider admitting.
Defensively, TCU didn’t help much off of Mykhailiuk. In some instances coach Jamie Dixon called for his Frogs to focus so intently on KU’s typical high-volume shooter that the senior from Ukraine would find a man covering him immediately on the catch, sometimes with a second defender shading that way, too (as examined further in Scott Chasen’s 1-3-1 breakdown from the game).
Self credited TCU with making some “subtle” and “clever” adjustments to its perimeter defense to put Mykhailiuk through a more difficult night than most foes.
Mykhailiuk is averaging 13.3 shot attempts per game as a senior. His previous season-low for one outing was nine — twice, in 26 minutes versus Texas Southern, and in 38 minutes against Syracuse.
Even as a junior Mykhailiuk regularly took far more shots. Only once, amid a late-season slump, did he get off fewer than four attempts, when he went 1-for-2 at Oklahoma State while playing just 12 minutes.
From a production standpoint, Mykhailiuk relapsed back to his days as an underclassmen for one night. The lack of chances to get involved and contribute at times visibly frustrated the habitually buttoned-up guard.
But don’t count on this becoming any type of trend. Now 20 years old and far more confident than ever as a senior, Mykhailiuk is equipped to learn from the type of defense with which TCU challenged him, even if future Kansas opponents try and use it as a blueprint.
Now Self, his assistants, Mykhailiuk and his teammates all have seen an opponent take away one of the Jayhawks’ best offensive weapons. They will be able to learn from what went wrong and adjust if/when they run into a similar scheme.
Self, after re-watching the game, pointed out one very simple way Mykhailiuk and his teammates were held back in the quest to get the usually stable scorer at least a few more open looks.
“Think about this. How many shots do our perimeter get off of ball screens where help is forced? Half? Well, we didn't force help off ball screens, because of the way they pre-switched it and did some things,” Self said, while crediting TCU for its strategy.
Whether it was perfect defense, his teammates not actively setting him up, the effects of illness or a cocktail of all three, count on the 0-for-2 line going down as an aberration for Mykhailiuk. KU wouldn’t be 19-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12 if it weren’t for the guidance he and fellow senior Devonte’ Graham have brought to the team.
Averaging 15.7 points in league games, Mykhailiuk is the Big 12’s 10th-leading scorer. Against conference competition, only Oklahoma super-freshman Trae Young (4.4 3-pointers a game) does more damage from outside than KU’s fourth-year shooter from Cherkasy, Ukraine (3.5 3-pointers a game). He shoots. He attacks bad closeouts. He sets up his teammates (2.9 assists per game on the year, 3.1 in conference).
And unlike in past seasons, senior Svi is too driven to become bogged down by one subpar performance.
“I think Svi’s been absolutely terrific,” Self said. “He's had an unbelievable senior year. He's been aggressive. But for whatever reasons, (the Horned Frogs) were able to take him away. And I don't know if it was as much us or a combination of us and maybe him just not having that extra oomph to maybe fight through some stuff.”
Mykhailiuk, who averaged 21.8 points in his previous four games, gets a chance to rediscover his offensive impact Saturday at Baylor (1 p.m., CBS).
Norman, Okla. — When taking into consideration all that led to Kansas suffering a Tuesday night road loss at Oklahoma, certain factors loomed much larger than others.
The dawning of the Hack-a-Dok era notwithstanding, some numbers other than sophomore center Udoka Azubuike’s 1-for-8 free-throw shooting stood out in the defeat.
Here are five statistics that shaped an entertaining evening of Big 12 basketball that ultimately cost Kansas a game’s worth of cushion in the league standings.
Leading by 6 points on the road with 7:03 left in the second half, KU picked a bad time to hit an offensive funk.
After freshman Marcus Garrett drove in for a layup to give KU a 76-70 lead, the Jayhawks tailspun down the stretch, as Oklahoma implemented a Hack-A-Dok strategy that at the very least ravaged KU’s offensive flow.
From that point on Kansas made just 2 of 10 field-goal attempts, went 0-for-6 at the free-throw line — all six misfires by Azubuike — and turned the ball over once.
The Sooners finished the victory on a 15-4 run, as Trae Young went 6-for-8 at the foul line down the stretch and 3-pointers by Christian James and Brady Manek assured OU of a victory.
Off night for Graham
KU’s best player, senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, wasn’t able to replicate his typical scoring production. Graham entered the anticipated matchup at OU averaging 20.4 points in Big 12 play, but matched his lowest output of conference action to date, with 11, equalling his total in a win over Iowa State.
Graham — a 42.7% shooter on the year — went 4-for-19 (21.1%) at Oklahoma. It was his second-lowest field goal percentage of year (1-for-8, 12.5 % in a loss to Washington).
A 41.7% 3-point shooter this season, Graham connected on just 1 of 9 (11.1%) against the Sooners. It was his least successful 3-point showing of his senior year.
Of course, Graham did plenty to help KU, too, with 9 assists and only 2 turnovers in nearly 40 minutes — not to mention the task of chasing around Young (26 points, 9 assists) much of the night.
Out-rebounded yet again
The Jayhawks’ losing streak on the battle of the boards continued in Norman.
Oklahoma’s 40 rebounds outnumbered KU’s 35, marking the ninth consecutive game KU has come up on the losing end in that category.
Indicative of the guard-heavy Jayhawks’ struggles on the glass, senior guard Graham (7 boards) led the team in rebounding for the second straight game.
KU has not had a double-digit rebounder since Azubuike grabbed 13 in the Big 12 opener at Texas.
For the second time this season Kansas didn’t even make half of its foul shots. Thanks in large part to OU fouling Azubuike and the big man going 1-for-8 on the night at the line, Kansas hit just 6 of 15 (40%).
KU actually fared even worse at the line at home against Iowa State two weeks earlier, when the Jayhawks shot 5-for-13 (38.5%) in a win. Azubuike wasn’t great that night either, going 1-for-4, but his teammates helped out — even Svi Mykhailiuk went 1-for-3.
At OU, though, only two other Jayhawks shot free throws: Graham went 2-for-4 and Malik Newman (20 points) made all three of his tries.
In the meantime, Oklahoma hit 20 of 25 in the win, led by Trae Young’s 10-for-12 night. The Sooners made 13 of 17 in the second half.
Svi’s second half
The Jayhawks might not have ever looked capable of winning at OU Tuesday night had it not been for Svi Mykhailiuk’s second-half scoring.
Mykhailiuk began cranking up his offense after intermission. The senior from Ukraine looked like one of the most experienced players on the floor nearly every time the ball reached his hands in the first portion of the second half, which he opened for KU with a 3-pointer, providing the Jayhawks their first lead since the midway point of the first.
Every spurt KU made during the opening 10 minutes of the second half featured either a Mykhailiuk drive and layup or 3-pointer, as he put up 13 of his 24 points during that post-halftime stretch.
Mykhailiuk accounted for five of KU’s first 13 second-half baskets, went 5-for-10 from the floor, made 3 of 7 shots and looked — per usual — like every shot that left his hands had a better shot of falling than rimming out. The 6-foot-8 shooter reached 20 points for the seventh time in his senior year.
He missed a potential go-ahead 3 with 0:52 to play and another that could’ve cut OU’s lead to 2 with 0:15 left, but Mykhailiuk was hardly to blame for the loss that snapped a five-game KU winning streak.
The idea of a Kansas basketball victory Monday night at West Virginia seemed somewhere in the realm of debatable to unfeasible during the Jayhawks’ unproductive first half.
Incredibly, KU emerged as an unlikely victor, 71-66, by withstanding the Mountaineers’ physical defense early on and eventually achieving the type of levelheaded play it needed to win at WVU Coliseum for the first time in five years.
Scouring through the final numbers, here are five statistics that stood out for Kansas, and made the improbable comeback from a 16-point first-half deficit possible.
Points off turnovers
Who would have thought Kansas would ever come out of a 40-minute battle with Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers having posted fewer turnovers and more points off turnovers than “Press Virginia”?
Three of KU’s previous four opponents won the points off turnovers battle against these same Jayhawks. Entering Monday’s game at West Virginia, Kansas was losing that category by an average of 4.4 points a game in Big 12 play.
Nevertheless, the Jayhawks beat WVU at what Huggins’ teams typically do best, turning 16 Mountaineers mistakes into 21 points. West Virginia scored 16 off of KU’s 13 turnovers. That’s only a five-point swing in KU’s favor, but it sure came in handy in a five-point road win.
Coming into the Big Monday showdown, West Virginia was out-scoring opponents in this category by an average of 23.4-12.1 a game.
Kansas made seven of its nine steals in the second half, with Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick coming away with two apiece. WVU totaled 11 turnovers over the final 20 minutes.
The visitors appeared bound for a disastrous night on the turnover front, with eight giveaways in the game’s first 10 minutes, but only committed five more turnovers in the final 30 minutes of play.
Kansas trailed by nine before it held West Virginia to just six points over the course of the game’s final 5:53.
Head coach Bill Self has been waiting all season to see this team make consistent stops and the Jayhawks couldn’t have picked a better time or place to show they had it in them.
WVU missed eight of its final 11 field-goal attempts and turned the ball over three times as Kansas turned up its defense and finished the night on a 20-6 run.
Speaking of KU’s defense, the Jayhawks provided enough hindrances beyond the arc that West Virginia converted just five 3-pointers all night — its second-lowest total of the season. Even better for Kansas, it held the Mountaineers to its lowest 3-point field goal percentage of the year: 18.5 percent, on 5-for-27 shooting.
That number also qualified as the lowest 3-point percentage by a KU opponent this season. Foes had made 32.8 percent from beyond the arc in the Jayhawks’ previous 17 games.
WVU really struggled from deep in the second half, making just 1 of 13 tries — a measly 7.7 percent.
The two KU players who had experienced more road losses at WVU than any of their teammates, seniors Devonte’ Graham and Mykhailiuk made sure they finally left The Mountain State victorious.
The duo basically traded scoring responsibilities for the final eight-and-a-half minutes to complete the comeback. Although Mykhailiuk struggled with three turnovers in that span, he tried to make up for it by going 3-for-3 from the floor and 4-for-4 on free throws, scoring 12 of his 17 points in that stretch.
Graham provided eight points for KU in the same span, which got rolling in the right direction with an and-one layup by the senior leader. Graham also nailed a 3 and made another lay-in in the final five minutes, finishing with 16 points in his first win at WVU Coliseum.
Mykhailiuk and Graham accounted for 20 of KU’s final 28 points.
Second-half second-chance points
Although WVU missed 18 field goals in the final 20 minutes and grabbed seven for offensive rebounds, the home team wasn’t able to feast on second-chance points down the stretch.
In the second half, that category, another staple of Huggins’ teams, only provided the Mountaineers with four points.
It was another key area Kansas had to address, after WVU scored 10 second-chance points in the first half.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. West Virginia
- Mountain of a comeback: Jayhawks stun West Virginia, move atop Big 12 standings
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks far more effective with Azubuike on the floor
- Notebook: WVU’s Harris earns start despite reprimand; Self wears Huggins’ pullover
- The Keegan Ratings: Graham leads comeback, tops ratings at West Virginia
- Matt Tait's Postgame Report Card
- Pressing on: Jayhawks rally for rare victory at West Virginia