A few years ago, there was a stretch where Jayhawk fans dreaded the upcoming postseason because of point guard play. After Tyshawn Taylor graduated in 2012, KU struggled to find a competent floor general, which doomed it in consecutive NCAA tournaments. Last year, Frank Mason emerged as an elite point guard, but a lack of help from his fellow backcourt members doomed the Jayhawks in another early NCAA exit.
This year, he has a complement, and the lethal point-guard duo of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham stands out as the Jayhawks biggest strength for a team with huge postseason ambitions.
Mason and Graham combined for points as No. 1 Kansas blew out eighth-seeded Kansas State, 85-63, in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday.
In each of the first two meetings with K-State this season, the Jayhawks got off to a slow start. Today, that wasn’t an issue, as KU opened the day on a 10-3 burst. Freshman Carlton Bragg, who is averaging just nine minutes per game, checked in and provided an immediate spark. Bragg scored seven points in the first 10 minutes, which helped the Jayhawks jump out to a 23-11 lead.
Kansas State made a run to get it within four at the 8:59 mark, but the rest of the half was all Jayhawks. Graham and Mason buried a combined five straight shots to stretch KU’s lead out to 17, and at halftime, the duo had 21 points and eight assists to one turnover. Kansas led at the half, 45-30.
K-State’s effort in the first half showed exactly how frustrating it is to face Kansas. The Wildcats shot 40% from the floor, which isn’t horrible, were out-rebounded by just one, and had only six turnovers. They still trailed by 15.
After halftime, Perry Ellis helped Kansas hold off any potential K-State comeback bids. The senior forward finished with 21 points on 8/11 from the field. KU led by about 20 points for the entirety of the second half, making it the perfect opportunity for Self to get his younger players some playing time.
Svi Mykhailiuk swished two three-pointers. Bragg finished with a career-high 12 points, despite fouling out in just 11 minutes. Even Tyler Self got to launch a three, though it bricked hard off of the back iron.
The Wildcats never got it back within single digits, despite the efforts of Justin Edwards, who was 9/15 from the floor and poured in 23 points.
The Jayhawks have now beaten the Wildcats in 12 straight neutral-site meetings, all of which have come in the Big 8/Big 12 tournament. The last time Kansas State beat KU in Kansas City was March 1993.
Up next for KU: the Jayhawks will face No. 5 seed Baylor in tomorrow night’s semifinals. This game will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal, won by the Jayhawks, 62-52. Tip-off is at 6:00 pm CDT.
- That’s 12 straight wins for the Jayhawks, which is their longest winning streak since 2012-13.
- Perry Ellis: 21 points (8/11 FG) and six rebounds, both of which led the team. He now has 1,688 career points. Ellis is five points away from passing Kevin Pritchard for 11th place on the all-time KU scoring list. He played 30 minutes.
- Carlton Bragg: 12 points (5/6 FG), which is a career high, but five fouls in 11 minutes. One of the weirdest games you’ll ever see, but he was very effective in all aspects on offense.
- Devonte’ Graham: 11 points (5/10 FG) and eight assists in 34 minutes. The eight assists are a career-high.
- Frank Mason: 16 points (6/8 FG) and seven assists in 32 minutes. He’s shooting 55% from the floor in KU’s 12-game winning streak.
- Landen Lucas: four points and four rebounds, but he played just 17 minutes. It was clear that Bill Self wanted to keep him rested for tomorrow.
- Wayne Selden: five points (1/6 FG) in 23 minutes. If there’s one thing to be concerned about with KU, it’s that he’s struggling to find any sort of shot right now.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: six points (2/2 FG). He’s made 11 of his last 15 three-pointers.
- Jamari Traylor: six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
- Hunter Mickelson and Brannen Greene both had two points in limited minutes.
- Cheick Diallo did not play after suffering an undisclosed injury in practice. Holding him out was likely precautionary.
- KU shot 57% from the floor, 35% from three, and 78% from the free-throw line.
- K-State: 39%, 33%, and 53%.