As one of Kansas’ senior team leaders, Frank Mason made sure to communicate with slumping Svi Mykhailiuk during practices the past five weeks.
“(I) just tell him to keep shooting, to keep his confidence,” Mason said of his words of encouragement to the 6-foot-8 junior shooting guard.
Mykhailiuk broke out of a prolonged skid by scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting (4 of 8 from three and 2 of 4 from the line) in the Jayhawks’ 85-82 Big 12 tournament quarterfinal loss to TCU on Thursday at Sprint Center.
“It was big for him. He hasn’t been shooting the ball really well the games before this,” Mason said. “He came here tonight and made some big shots and some big plays early.”
Mykhailiuk, who scored KU’s first five points and 13 points in the initial eight minutes, entered having hit 4 of his last 20 three-pointers over six games. He was 6 of 27 overall in that six-game span, good for just 20 points.
“I just kept being aggressive today, kept shooting the ball, did not think about my shot and it just went in,” Mykhailiuk said.
He said he was not trying to single-handedly make up for the loss of freshman guard Josh Jackson, whose 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game were not available because of a one-game suspension.
“I took open shots. I didn’t make them the last five, six games. Today I just made ‘em,” the Ukraine native said.
Mykhailiuk — he averages 9.6 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting (63 of 157 threes for 40.1 percent) — will enter the NCAA Tournament coming off his second most productive outing of the season and best scoring performance in a Big 12 game. He had a season high 20 points on Dec. 22 at UNLV and 17 points on Feb. 4 against Iowa State.
“Well I hope it’s big (confidence boost) for him,” KU coach Bill Self said. “He needs to leave out of here (Sprint Center) on a positive (note), not with the last two plays.”
Mykhailiuk committed a key turnover late and fouled Desmond Bane on a three from the corner with 2.5 seconds left. Bane’s three free throws provided the difference for victorious TCU.
“It was a good play,” KU sophomore Carlton Bragg said of Mykhailiuk’s block. The foul occurred as Svi fell into Bane on the freshman’s follow through. “Just don’t foul jump shooters. That’s something coach always harps on.”
“I saw him block it,” KU junior guard Devonté Graham said. “I guess he ran into him.”
Self is confident Mykhailiuk will finish his junior year strong.
“Svi is a good player. No doubt about that. He knows he’s a good player. He hasn’t had his best couple weeks he’s had since he’s been here,” Self said.
Mykhailiuk said losing the first game of the postseason tournament and having to head back to Lawrence and not remain in KC until the night before Selection Sunday “is very disappointing, very frustrating because we played (TCU) twice this year. We beat them both times. Today they were better.”
Svi said the Jayhawks were burned by not building on their 12-point lead in the final 4 minutes, 19 seconds of the first half. Instead, by halftime TCU led 43-42. By the 13:57 mark of the second half, the Frogs led by 11.
“We can’t stop and relax during the game,” Mykhailiuk said. “The first half we led by 12 points. You relax a little and we’re down at half. Don’t do dumb plays, be smart and play the right way.”
It will help that Jackson will return for the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament opener, which could be next Friday in Tulsa, Okla. Details will be revealed on Selection Sunday.
“Playing without him, we were short on rebounds I guess,” Mykhailiuk said. KU was outboarded 36-31. “He averages nine rebounds in the league (acutally 7.6) and 17 points (16.7). That’s 17 points, nine rebounds a game we were short.”
Graham is OK
Kansas junior guard Devonté Graham, who hurt his left foot in the first half of Thursday’s Big 12 tournament quarterfinals loss to TCU, is not expected to miss any time, KU coach Bill Self said Friday.
“He’s fine, (a) little sore, but OK,” Self said. Graham headed to the locker room after hurting his foot on the defensive end with 10:55 left in the initial half, but returned to the game shortly after. He wound up playing 35 minutes, scoring 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting (all threes). He was 4 of 4 from the line and had three assists, two turnovers and a steal in the 85-82 loss.
Duval completes visits
Trevon Duval, a 6-2 senior point guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., earlier this week took his last official visit to Seton Hall. Duval, the No. 3-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2017, according to Rivals.com, has also visited KU, Duke, Arizona and Baylor. He’s not yet announced a date to reveal his college choice.
Trevon’s dad, Trevor Duval, wrote this on Facebook on Friday: “Well Trevon Duval has taken his 5 official College Visits … Kansas, Duke, Arizona, Baylor,and Seton Hall.
“It definitely was an amazing experience. Traveled to some great places and met some great coaches and their staff. Every program we visited are running their programs on a very high level. All the schools were unique in their own way. Every school had a uniqueness that made them all different. Some threw shots at other programs, but only one never said a word about any other program. All the schools showed us a lot of love, but you still have to realize it’s still a business. You have to be observant and recognize the little things. All of their pitches were almost all alike. Not saying they were bad pitches, we all just have to decide now as a family the right situation. Give thanks to all the schools who recruited Trevon and welcomed his family. … Bless.”