Kansas’ early barrage of three-point shots against Iowa State surprised just about everybody in Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night, including Bill Self.
“We were so impatient early. I felt from the bench we didn’t have any control because they were just clipping ’em off,” Self said of his four-guard/one big lineup, which accounted for 14 three-point attempts in the first 17 shots of an 83-78 victory over the Cyclones.
“Certainly we didn’t put any pressure on the defense at all,” Self added.
He has mixed emotions when his Jayhawks (13-3, 3-1), who have relied on three-pointers extensively this season, start launching them from all over the court.
“It’s kind of a fine line,” said Self, who deemed a school-record 24 tries in the first half a “ridiculous” amount. “You don’t want to tell them, ‘Don’t shoot threes,’ because if Doke (Udoka Azubuike) is not in the game, it’s our best offense. Certainly we have to drive and get to the free-throw line more.”
The three-point onslaught — KU made nine the first half — resulted in a narrow 40-37 lead over the Cyclones (9-6, 0-4).
“We were overreliant,” Self said. “I mean we were on pace to shoot 60 threes. We made shots early, which is fool’s gold. We had no post presence at all (until late in the half, when Azubuike scored seven straight points).”
By game’s end, Kansas had attempted 36 threes, the most attempts by KU in a Big 12 game — surpassing 35 against Texas on Dec. 29. The Jayhawks made 14, three shy of the most threes made by a KU team in a conference game (17 against Texas). Earlier this year, Kansas hit a school-record for all games of 19 threes in 36 tries in a win over Texas Southern. KU attempted a school-record 38, hitting 14, in a loss to Arizona State on Dec. 10.
“That’s one thing we have to balance. At the half we shot 24 threes. That’s something we can’t be doing, especially when we have a big fella (Azubuike) in there like that,” said combo guard Malik Newman. The 6-foot-3 Newman hit 5 of 13 threes against Iowa State en route to a career-high 27 points.
The 13 attempts tied for most by a Jayhawk in a conference game. Jeff Boschee also took 13 against Texas on Feb. 11, 2002.
“We have to do a better job of balancing it out and getting to the line and the paint,” Newman added.
In all, 42 percent of the Jayhawks’ total number of shots this season have been three-pointers. The previous KU high was threes accounting for 36 percent of total shots last season.
KU leads the 10-team Big 12 in threes made with177 (Oklahoma has 163 in one fewer game, and West Virginia has 143) and is second in threes attempted with 428 (West Virginia has 432, and Oklahoma 410). Through four conference games, KU has made a league-high 48 threes to Oklahoma’s 39. KU has attempted a league-high 117 treys to the Sooners’ 90 and West Virginia’s 89.
Senior Svi Mykhailiuk — who hit five threes in the first half Tuesday and finished with six — has cashed 57 threes in 16 games, one behind Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who has made 58 in 15 contests. KU’s Devonté Graham has made 51 from beyond the arc.
In conference play, Mykhailiuk has a league best 19 threes. Iowa State’s Donovan Jackson, who hit six against KU, has 18, Young 14 and Graham 13. Jackson leads the league in attempts with 37 to Mykhailiuk’s 35 and Graham’s 33.
Depending on how many games the Jayhawks play, Mykhailiuk and Graham could conceivably challenge Terry Brown for KU’s all-time single season record for successful three-pointers (111 in 1990-91). Mykhailiuk’s six threes Tuesday were two shy of KU’s all-time mark in a conference game. Billy Thomas converted eight threes against Texas on Jan. 10, 1998. Brown hit a school-record 11 threes against North Carolina State on Jan. 5, 1991.
“I shoot the ball every time I’m open. It just happened to go in,” Mykhailiuk said. His three three-pointers in the first minute and a half accounted for KU’s first nine points.
“I think it’s how I start the game. If I make the first look, the game becomes easier and the shot becomes easier,” added Mykhailiuk, who had 23 points on 6-of-9 three-point shooting.
Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said on the postgame radio show he’s “proud” of Mykhailiuk’s effort in his senior season.
“The best thing is Svi makes them (47.9 percent overall from three; 54.3 percent in Big 12 games) and everybody knows he’s our best shooter. They design their defense to make sure he doesn’t get open looks,” Townsend said.
“He finds a way to get open and make them. We ask him to guard the 4-man a lot. He’s not the strongest guy in the world. He’s getting there. He knows it’s his last go-round. He wants his last year to be special. He has to make sure he brings other guys along with him.”
Mykhailiuk has noticed attention from the defense.
“They try to not let me catch it easy,” Mykhailiuk said. “Any time there’s a ball screen they try to help. I’m definitely having fun playing with this team. It’s (my) last go-round. We’ll just enjoy it.”
KU coach Self, who likes it when big man Azubuike is in the game and involved, said if the Jayhawks do shoot a batch of threes, “you’ve got to understand who the best shooters are to take those shots.”
KU will next meet Kansas State at 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. Then it’s off to West Virginia for an 8 p.m. contest on Monday in Morgantown, W. Va.