Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk has topped 20 points in each of the last three games and enters Saturday's 11 a.m. game against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse second on the team in scoring, at 17 points per game — just four points behind senior running mate Devonte' Graham's 17.2 average.
Talk about a nice way to respond to the 7-point outing on 3-of-10 shooting in a too-close-for-comfort home win over Baylor that preceded Mykhailiuk's current streak.
For the senior from Ukraine, the most important ingredient in his recent offensive explosion — 24 points against Oklahoma, 24 against Texas A&M and 22 on Monday night against K-State — has been obvious. And KU coach Bill Self talked about it during his "Hawk Talk" radio show on KLWN Wednesday night.
“He's just so confident right now,” Self said of Mykhailiuk. “And he really needs to be because Devonte's played well, but he hasn't made shots.”
While Graham, who has played all 40 minutes in five straight games, continues to impact KU's play in a bunch of other ways, he also has shot just 9-of-40 from the floor during KU's last three games, including 5-of-19 from 3-point range.
Mykhailiuk, on the other hand, shot 25-of-52 during those same games, including an eye-popping 15-of-30 from behind the arc.
A somewhat overlooked aspect of Graham's recent struggles and Mykhailiuk's surge is the fact that the two are linked.
So many of Myhailiuk's jumpers — both of late and all season — have been the product of Graham driving the ball and dishing pinpoint passes to his best friend and this team's best shooter.
“Svi's hard to guard right now, because he can shoot it and he's putting it down pretty well,” Self said. “But Devonte's done such a good job getting in there. And even when he doesn't make shots, our offense is so much better when he gets his shoulders past people.”
Mykhailiuk, who has attacked the rim better in recent weeks than at any point during his career, has scored fewer than 14 points just five times all season and failed to reach double digits just twice.
While that confidence that Self spoke of is evident in the way Mykhailiuk attacks opponents, the Kansas coach said it shows up in different ways in practice.
“I can get on to him, which I have, for taking some terrible shots,” Self began. “And he looks at me and acknowledges me, which is good, and then he forgets everything that I ever said to him, which is even better. That's the difference (in him being) a senior and a guy that's been around.”
The 7th-ranked Jayhawks (18-4 overall, 7-2 Big 12) have needed everything Mykhailiuk has been able to deliver, from the high point totals and sensational shooting to the steady hand and senior leadership.
And the way Self sees it, his team will need it the rest of the way if the Jayhawks hope to claim another Big 12 crown and make a run in the postseason.
“I personally think that the vast majority of the games are going to go down to the last two or three possessions,” Self said. “I really do. I think the league's too good and I certainly would anticipate Saturday being the same way against Oklahoma State, and then Tuesday against TCU.”