In the final moments here on Monday night, as the scoring records fell and the tiny Lahaina Civic Center became a rectangular shoebox of noise, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk controlled the ball on the left wing and crossed over to his right. He flipped the ball to senior forward Hunter Mickelson, who made one cut and dished it back to a wide-open Mykhailiuk.
From the third row of this small gymnasium, a lone Kansas fan screamed a request: “Shoot it!”
Mykhailiuk obliged, unspooling a feather jumper, and like most everything here on Monday night, the ball swished through the basket.
“If it’s an open look,” Mykhailiuk said, “it’s a pretty easy shot.”
This simple maxim was no sign of braggadocio. It was a calm response, offered coldly. And for one night, it was true. Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 sophomore wing, finished with a career-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting from three, and the Jayhawks scored more points than any other team in the Bill Self era, finishing with a 123-72 victory over Chaminade in the first round of the Maui Invitational.
The Jayhawks’ 123 points were the sixth most in program history, easily surpassing the 113 points Kansas scored in the season opener against Longwood in 2010-11, the previous record for the Self era.
In the moments after the game, Self said he cared little about the scoring output or records — “I’d rather win 50-40 than give up that many points,” he said — but the walk-over did offer other bonuses, such as a shot of confidence for Mykhailiuk, an 18-year-old sophomore trying to find his role in Kansas’ guard rotation.
“Didn’t he just look more confident out there today?” Self said.
There were other aspects, too, that Self enjoyed. Sophomore Wayne Selden kicked an early-season funk, finishing with 18 points. The Jayhawks, 2-1, shot better than 64 percent and, even though Chaminade offered little resistance inside, the KU frontcourt converted at the rim, something that didn’t happen in a loss to Michigan State at the Champions Classic.
“I think it was good for Wayne, and I think it was really good for our bigs,” Self said. “Even though they were so small. We at least scored in tight. We didn’t miss those layups like we’ve been missing.”
This was, after all, an equal opportunity bludgeoning. Seven Jayhawks finished in double figures, including Mickelson, who didn’t play much until the final minutes of the second half. Sophomore Devonte’ Graham also snapped his own shooting slump, hitting 3 of 5 from three-point range while finishing with 15 points. As a team, the Jayhawks finished 15 of 29 from three-point range, the second time in three games that Kansas has hit 15 three-pointers.
“We've scored a lot of points,” Self said. “We were decent in transition. But I don't know if our offense was great when you have a big size advantage and you can throw it inside and have a 6-9 score against a 6-4 … You should get some easy baskets.”
The Jayhawks advanced to the second round, where they will face UCLA at 9 tonight, and in this sense, Self had another message: The competition will become more fierce, and Kansas must start guarding.
“That’s not real,” Self said of Monday’s victory. “And you get into conference play, and real games, you got to string together five, six, seven stops in a row, and we’re not doing that consistently.”
Monday, of course, was slated to be a mismatch, with an undersized Division II school playing a traditional blue blood. This was not Chaminade over Ralph Sampson and Virginia. This was not even Chaminade over Texas in 2012 — a more recent example of a shocking upset here in Maui. For close to 40 minutes, Kansas and Chaminade played to their respective roles.
For most of the first half, Chaminade was content to pack the lane with its zone defense and dare Kansas to fire from deep. The zone befuddled the Jayhawks for a few possessions, but when Graham penetrated into the lane and set up Mykhailiuk for an open three-pointer, the Jayhawks appeared to have the Chaminade cheat code. Kansas drilled six of its first nine from beyond the three-point line, stretching the lead to 36-18 when Graham finished a layup with 7:33 in the half.
Mykhailiuk lit the fuse with three three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, and Selden added a couple other treys as the Jayhawks seized control, taking a 53-33 lead into the intermission. The Jayhawks shot 54 percent during the first half and drilled 7 of 16 from behind the three-point line. The outside barrage carried into the second half, with Selden and Mykhailiuk breaking out in a big way.
“I think of my teammates,” Mykhailiuk said, “because Frank (and) Devonte' and everybody else was driving really good, and I was able to just make some shots.”
So much of Monday was just about getting back on the floor. Kansas had arrived here in Maui on Friday evening, the day that Self announced a six-game suspension for junior wing Brannen Greene. The suspension, which stemmed in part from a contentious argument between Greene and Self after the Michigan State loss, set the tone for a drama-filled weekend. One day later, Self ripped the NCAA for its handling of the Cheick Diallo case.
Self critiqued the pace of the case and questioned whether the NCAA was acting in good faith. He also divulged that Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger had sent a letter to the NCAA on Nov. 10, requesting that Diallo be ruled eligible immediately. On Monday night, Self said Zenger heard from the NCAA earlier in the day.
“They're working on it,” Self said. “So that's all I know concerning that situation.
Today, the Diallo Watch will continue. But Self can also look forward to another basketball game. The Jayhawks need two more victories to claim a championship here in Maui, and if they shoot like they did Monday, they will be hard to beat.
“You know, you've got to make shots,” Self said. “When you can run bad offense and come away with three points, that's a huge advantage. Certainly, there were several times tonight we didn't run great offense or anything, but we were able to come away with baskets because guys stepped up and made plays.”