In college basketball, it’s impossible to consistently play at an elite level. A staple of the very best teams is that year-in and year-out, they’re able to win a handful of games by a large margin even if they didn’t play particularly great.
For a Kansas team that has been mired in a recent funk, losing three of its last six games, a blowout win over a bitter rival might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The No. 7 Jayhawks took down the Kansas State Wildcats for the 49th time in their last 54 meetings, 77-59 on Wednesday night. It marked the first time that Kansas put together consecutive victories since the second week of January, which is an eternity for a school with such a winning tradition.
A feverishly slow start made the sellout Allen Fieldhouse crowd uneasy from the beginning. Kansas scored just 10 points in the game’s first 10 minutes, spotting K-State with an early nine-point lead. Down 16-7, Bill Self turned to an unlikely candidate to provide his offense with a spark plug: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
Mykhailiuk, who had played just one minute in KU’s last three games, made his presence immediately felt by completing a three-point play to bring Allen Fieldhouse back to life. Two minutes later, he buried a three-pointer, his first since January 19. Over the final 9:39 of the half, the Jayhawks outscored the Wildcats 29-11 to seize a 10-point halftime advantage. Brannen Greene, another spark plug that came off the bench, drained a three-pointer while being fouled with two seconds left in the half. He completed the four-point play to put Kansas up 39-29 at intermission.
In the second half, the Jayhawks once again were caught sleepwalking through the early minutes. Kansas State opened the period on a 16-8 run, trimming the deficit all the way back down to two points with 12:00 left.
Kansas completely dominated the rest of the game.
Wayne Selden Jr., fresh off of his career-best 33-point performance against Kentucky, drained a three and laid in a transition alley-oop to restore the Jayhawks with a seven-point advantage. Bruce Weber tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout, but a layup by Mykhailiuk and a dunk by Perry Ellis immediately followed, making the run 9-0. This prompted Weber to call his second timeout in 32 seconds.
The game never got closer than nine points the rest of the way. By the time Brannen Greene slammed home a dunk as time expired, an act that will surely earn him extra suicides in practice, Kansas’ lead was 18, its largest of the night.
In Kansas’ January funk, turnovers plagued the Jayhawks’ normally-dependable backcourt. On Wednesday night, it was the Wildcats that couldn’t hold onto the ball. Kansas State committed a whopping 23 turnovers, which made the 16 put forth by Kansas seem unimportant. Combine the 39 turnovers with 45 fouls, three of which were technicals, and you have a pretty ugly game.
Still, Kansas was able to win a conference game by 18 points.
In the media room after the game, the Jayhawks appeared as loose and free-flowing as ever. Graham and Mykhailiuk giggled throughout the interview process. The fact of the matter is that this team, despite the recent struggles, hasn’t had their confidence shaken. They know exactly how good they are, and they also have an idea of how good they can be. “There’s still a lot of things that we need to work on,” Ellis added.
- The Jayhawks are 18-4 on the season and 6-3 in Big 12 play. They are tied with Texas and Baylor for third in the conference.
- Perry Ellis: a game-high 19 points (8/11 FG, 3/3 from three) and five rebounds in 34 minutes. He was splendidly efficient, as he seemingly always is.
- Devonte’ Graham: 10 points (4/9 FG) and four assists in 39 minutes, which is a career-high.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 10 points (4/7 FG) and four assists in 21 minutes. He was KU’s spark plug – a spectacular performance.
- Frank Mason: eight points (1/5 FG) and four assists in 31 minutes. He continues to struggle with shooting, but there’s still nobody tougher in the conference.
- Landen Lucas: eight points (2/3 FG) and six rebounds in 25 minutes. Once again, it’s not a super pretty statline, but he did exactly what Bill Self asks his center to do – be solid and don’t screw up.
- Wayne Selden: seven points (3/9 FG) in 24 minutes. That’s a season-low for him in points, and the fewest minutes he’s played in Big 12 play. It wasn’t nearly as noticable as it would have been had Mykhailiuk not been so effective.
- Jamari Traylor: five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
- Brannen Greene: eight points (3/3 FG) – a three and-one, a layup, and a dunk at the buzzer.
- Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg played a combined seven minutes, none of which were in the second half.
- Up next for Kansas: Saturday at TCU at 11:00 am.