Thanks in part to sizzling senior Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas’ basketball players did not come close to suffering a letdown three nights after defeating fellow blueblood Kentucky at the Champions Classic earlier in the week.
Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 guard from Ukraine, scored a career-high 27 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting (10 of 17 overall) as the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks, who committed zero turnovers the first half and seven in 40 minutes, rolled to an early 18-point lead and a 98-64 victory over South Dakota State on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He was aggressive, and he showed tonight what we’ve been waiting to see — come out and score a lot of points in bunches,” KU coach Bill Self said of Mykhailiuk, whose 14 points early sparked KU to a 27-12 advantage eight minutes into the contest.
Mykhailiuk hit 8 of 13 first-half shots and had 19 points with four steals as the Jayhawks led 57-28 at halftime.
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Mykhailiuk — who entered the game with a 16.0 scoring average — also chipped in five rebounds. Kansas guard Lagerald Vick finished with 22 points, one off a career high, and guard Malik Newman scored 13 points, all in the initial half.
“He shot the heck out of it in shootaround today. He’s confident right now,” Self said of Mykhailiuk, who sat the final 7:43 of the blowout because of cramps. Vick and Devonté Graham (eight points, 11 assists, five rebounds), also suffered cramps down the stretch.
Mykhailiuk said the focus was sharp early after Tuesday’s 65-61 win over Kentucky, a game in which Mykhailiuk hit just 3 of 10 threes en route to 17 points. As a team, KU hit 8 of 28 threes but gutted out a big win over the No. 7-rated Wildcats, lending some to fear a possible letdown Friday.
“We always are trying to come to the game ready,” Mykhailiuk said of Friday’s task. “If you start slow you let a team know they can play with you. We always try to come out hard and don’t let them score.”
“I didn’t shoot well against Kentucky,” Mykhailiuk added. “Nobody did. We got back the next day, and everybody went into the gym and shot the ball. Whenever you are open, you shoot.”
KU hit 60.7 percent of its shots, including 13 of 27 threes versus Summit League favorite South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (3-1) were led by forward Mike Daum’s 21 points and 11 boards.
Mykhailiuk had words of praise not only for teammate Udoka Azubuike, who tied a career high with 17 points, but walk-on forward Clay Young. Young played 18 minutes and contributed two points, two assists and a steal as Billy Preston missed his third straight game as KU compliance continues to look into the financial picture involving a car he has on campus.
“Clay … he does a great job posting up,” Mykhailiuk said. “When everybody is sucking in, he looks around for shooters.”
“Aside from Svi, Clay was the second best player we had the first half,” Self noted.
Young, a 6-5 senior from Lansing, was happy to contribute.
“Without having Billy, we’re pretty short,” said Young. “We don’t have a lot of depth. I’m prepared to go in the game if coach calls on me. I definitely didn’t expect to go in four minutes into the first half of an actual game,” he added, smiling of replacing Azubuike, who had picked up an early foul.
KU (3-0) took care of the ball Friday. The Jayhawks had zero turnovers the first half, committing their first with 11:27 left when Mitch Lightfoot fumbled the ball in the paint. KU finished with seven turnovers to South Dakota State’s 12. South Dakota State hit 32.8 percent of its shots, 6 of 28 from three.
“I think our guys are tired,” Self said. “We had a bad practice yesterday from an energy standpoint. We took off Wednesday. We’ll take off Saturday and play Tuesday (7 p.m. at home vs. Texas Southern). Sure to take off Wednesday. The NCAA passed a new rule. You’ve got to give kids more days off. We may get that done by Christmas.”
Self also said there was no change in the status of Preston, who is being held out until if and when compliance clears him to play.
“He’s been mature,” Self said. “He’s handled it well.” Self noted that Preston was “obviously disappointed and frustrated as everybody is.”
The Jayhawks claimed a historic victory of sorts Friday. Self improved to 419-88 in 15 seasons at KU and moved into sole possession of second place on KU’s all-time win list for coaches. Roy Williams went 418-101 in 15 seasons. Phog Allen is No. 1 at 590-219.
“That is not really something that needs to be talked about. I knew we had the same number after the last game,” Self said of he and Williams.
“I swear I have not thought about that. I’ve had other things to think about, to be honest,” he added referring to the Preston situation. “I haven’t thought about that one time until you mentioned it. I won’t think about it again after I leave out of here. We’ve won our fair share, but in large part we’ve had better players. It’s nice. It won’t register as an accomplishment at all.”