It appeared certain Svi Mykhailiuk would register the first 30-point game of his four-year Kansas basketball career when he drilled a three-pointer with 12:59 left in Friday’s 98-64 rout of South Dakota State at Allen Fieldhouse.
At that point, the 6-foot-8 senior off guard from Ukraine had erupted for a career-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He’d made five threes in seven tries.
However, Mykhailiuk suffered cramps in his right leg shortly after missing a dunk try with 10:35 left, headed to the bench for a short spell, and after returning and missing a shot, was finished for the night at 7:43 after cramping again.
“That’s the first time that’s happened. I never had that problem before. It was hot in the gym. I was sweating a lot,” Mykhailiuk said after finishing with 27 points, five rebounds and four steals in 30 minutes. His previous high was 23 points against Austin Peay on March 17, 2016.
Mykhailiuk had a brief conversation on the bench with KU coach Bill Self with about six minutes to play. Was Svi, who was smiling at the time, trying to convince the coach to let him back in the game so he could top the 30-point standard?
“No. Coach just asked me if I was cramping. He said, ‘Drink some water.’ That was it,” Mykhailiuk said.
Mykhailiuk — who averaged 9.8 points per game his junior season (5.4 as a sophomore, 2.8 as a freshman) — has averaged a team-leading 19.7 points a game in three games heading into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. home contest against Texas Southern.
“I’m trying to be aggressive every game,” Mykhailiuk said. “I made shots (Friday). When I start feeling it I keep shooting.”
Mykhailiuk has made 50 percent of his shots through three games. He’s 11 of 23 from three (47.8 percent) and 12 of 23 from two (52.2 percent). He was a chilly 7 of 18 (3 of 10 threes) in Tuesday’s 65-61 victory over Kentucky in Chicago.
“We all struggled, everybody,” Mykhailiuk said of KU hitting 35.3 percent of its shots (8 of 28 threes) against John Calipari’s Wildcats. “I was 3 for 10 (from three). Everybody got back into the gym when we got back. We shot the ball (Friday). Whenever you are open you’ve got to shoot the ball. When you are open and turn down a shot, that’s not a good thing.”
Mykhailiuk played 32 minutes against Kentucky and 30 in the season-opening win over Tennessee State to go with his 30 minutes against South Dakota State. Mykhailiuk averaged 27.3 minutes per game his junior year, and 12.8 and 11.2 minutes per contest his sophomore and freshman seasons, respectively.
“Everybody likes to play, definitely. In games at home, an atmosphere like this, I love it,” he said after Friday’s victory. “We don’t have as many bigs as last year. This year we’re playing four guards most of the time. Last year we played four guards. This year we have to play four guards.”
KU had just two scholarship bigs available last game — Udoka Azubuike (17 points and two rebounds in 23 minutes) and Mitch Lightfoot (two points, three boards, four blocks in seven minutes). Freshman forward Billy Preston was out as KU compliance continues to look into the financial picture involving the vehicle he’s been driving on campus.
“I think we’re playing pretty well,” Mykhailiuk said of the Jayhawks (3-0). “We’ve got some guys who are used to playing and have experience in games. Me and Devonté (Graham, 9.7 points per game, 28 assists, nine turnovers) have played together three years and me and LaGerald (Vick, 18.0 points per game) two years. We know what Coach wants us to do. We can teach young guys and help them learn fast.
“I’m definitely trying to do more on the court and off the court, talk to the young guys, talk to everybody because I’ve been here three years. I’m a pretty calm guy. I never used to talk a lot. I’m trying to get better.”
Mykhailiuk, who has said he’s at 207 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than the end of last season, worked on his game last summer.
First he averaged a tournament-best 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game while playing seven games for Ukraine in the Under-20 European Championships in Greece. Then he averaged 12.5 points and 3.3 boards a game in four games for KU on its exhibition tour of Italy.
“It was a great experience. I always love playing for my national team,” Mykhailiuk said. “I led them in scoring because I was leader of the team, just everybody giving me the ball. I was trying to get every possession in my hand and finish it with a pass or a shot. I think Italy helped a lot. We became closer as a team, got to know each other better. Now we just try to get better every day, listen to the coaches and do what they say.”
Self has been impressed with Mykhailiuk’s start to his final season.
“He’s been on an uptick basically ever since our second exhibition game — Fort Hays State,” Self said.
Mykhailiuk scored eight points on 4-of-13 shooting (0 for 7 threes) with five assists, four turnovers and eight rebounds in 24 minutes in the final tuneup before the regular season.
“He played well against Kentucky. He was aggressive (against South Dakota State) and showed tonight what we’ve been waiting to see, to come out and score a lot of points in bunches,” Self added.
Hurt visits KU over weekend
Matthew Hurt, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound junior power forward from John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minn., made an unofficial recruiting visit to KU over the weekend. He attended KU’s game against South Dakota State.
Hurt has also visited Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana and Duke, as well as Minnesota, according to 247sports.com. He’s ranked No. 5 in the recruiting class of 2019 by Rivals.com.