The following is a breakdown of each Kansas scholarship player from the team’s 90-56 victory Wednesday over Stella Azzurra/HSC Roma.
Malik Newman: Could have easily gotten the nod for MVP, though that award officially went to teammate Devonté Graham after the game. Newman made difficult shots in scoring a team-best 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, which included 2-for-3 accuracy from three-point range. In fact, KU coach Bill Self’s biggest gripe with Newman came early in the first quarter when he turned down an open three. “Shoot the ball,” Self told him.
Devonté Graham: Like Newman, Graham made tough shots while also posting nine assists. He looked especially comfortable in the second half, reading the defense on drives before finding open teammates for easy looks (three examples come on the first four plays on our second-half highlight video). Graham had 14 points, made 4 of 6 threes, and also received praise from Self afterward. “When they make shots, (Graham and Newman) are pretty good together,” Self said. “You know it’s different thank Frank (Mason). Frank was such a downhill, north and south guy. Those guys are a little bit more perimeter shooters than what Frank is as far as getting them off quick. I thought they both looked good.”
Udoka Azubuike: The center was overpowering in stretches, dunking so hard that he nearly pulled down the rim on two occasions. He scored 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in 13 minutes, but he was just 1-for-5 from the foul line, and you can bet that coaches will make sure to let him know he only had two rebounds. Self labeled the big man’s effort as “fine.” “It’d be nice if he could (dunk) every basket, but you’ve got to be able to score with a guy between you and the rim,” Self said. “He’s got to develop some other things. Today he had dunks, so you might as well take them.”
Billy Preston: Received the start, something that Self said the freshman had earned through practice and also because teammate Mitch Lightfoot had missed recent time because of a broken nose. As Self spoke about it a few days ago, Preston appears to still be thinking his way through KU’s sets. There was one instance where Azubuike received the ball in the post and Preston didn’t dive to the basket — an automatic in Self’s system. That led to two coaches immediately yelling out the mistake. There was another time when Self screamed at Preston to “move” on the offensive end. Having said that, Preston still managed 10 points in 12 minutes while showing potential to be a dominant rebounder — something this team will likely need because of its lack of big-man depth. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, but he’s talented,” Self said after the game. “If he can ever figure it out, he’s going to be a really good player.” Self revealed after the game that Preston sprained his knee a few days ago, with the coach saying “structurally he’s fine, but it’s a little bit sore.”
Lagerald Vick: The junior’s biggest impact was defensively, as he swiped a team-high four steals in his 19 minutes. Offensively, he had a quiet night and wasn’t overly aggressive, putting in a pair of transition field goals for four points on 2-for-5 shooting.
Svi Mykhailiuk: After spending the summer with the national team in Ukraine, Mykhailiuk had an impressive performance after not practicing with KU over the summer. He had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting in 11 minutes, ran the floor well in transition and also was solid defensively with two steals. He also was unaffected by the public-address announcer calling him “Muh-kai-luh-key” in the pregame introductions.
Charlie Moore: Inconsistent first game for him, as he had highlights (picking the correct path on a high ball screen before drawing help and kicking to Marcus Garrett for a wide-open three that missed) and tough moments (throwing an alley oop to no one that led to Self voicing his displeasure from the sideline). He had seven points on 3-for-9 shooting with two assists in 21 minutes.
Mitch Lightfoot: It’s tough to gauge his play properly because of the mask he was wearing to protect his nose. He was open inside on one pass from Graham that he fumbled for a turnover, and the next time down, Self told Graham to only throw low passes to Lightfoot because of his mask-impaired vision. Self wasn’t happy with Lightfoot’s rebounding early, challenging him with an “Is that all you got?” after Lightfoot was moved to the bench. The sophomore had five points on 2-for-4 shooting in 14 minutes with two turnovers and four fouls.
Marcus Garrett: Graham and Moore both created to give him open threes that he couldn’t knock down. Seemed like he might have been pressing a bit in his debut. He had two points on 1-for-5 shooting with two steals, two turnovers and four fouls in his 20 minutes.
Sam Cunliffe: Ran well in transition but didn’t make jumpers and wasn’t able to create much off the dribble in half-court settings. He scored four points on 2-for-8 shooting in 15 minutes.
K.J. Lawson: Had a couple of nice plays in the second half (turnaround jumper and offensive rebound stickback) but was mostly quiet other than that. He posted five points on 2-for-6 shooting with four rebounds and three turnovers in 16 minutes.