Heading into the season, Kansas’ depth was shaping up to become its most valuable asset. Analysts raved about KU’s chances to have success in March because of the number of quality players at Bill Self’s disposal.
That depth was on full display in Thursday’s NCAA tournament-opening win against 16th-seeded Austin Peay. When top-seeded Kansas’ starting point guard Devonte’ Graham had the worst game of his season, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk came off the bench to have the best game of his career.
Mykhailiuk scored 23 points to lead Kansas over Austin Peay, 105-79. For the 10th straight year, KU won its NCAA tournament opener.
The two teams played an even first eight minutes, as the Jayhawks held a 12-10 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the half. After that, Kansas’ offense broke out in a big way, sparking a 23-6 run to blow the game wide open before halftime. While Graham and Wayne Selden were struggling from the floor, Mykhailiuk and Perry Ellis picked them up. Frank Mason ended the half with a beautiful driving layup. Kansas led 48-28 at halftime. Jamari Traylor had eight rebounds at intermission, which was already a season-high.
The Governors opened the second half on a bit of a spurt, closing the deficit from 20 to 15. Bill Self called a timeout and opted to put a handful of bench players in the game. Mykhailiuk picked up right where he left off in the first half, driving into the paint with ease to post career numbers.
Kansas’ biggest lead of the afternoon was 31, occurring with 10:03 left when Mykhailiuk hit a three to give KU an 81-50 advantage. The Jayhawks’ second and third stringers played even with the Generals’ starters. All 15 active players on the Kansas roster participated in the game. The final product was a
Landen Lucas also had a career day, dropping in a personal-best 16 points. He also led Kansas with eight rebounds.
Nearly every Kansas player posted pretty numbers, but there were a couple that struggled. Devonte’ Graham couldn’t get a shot to drop. Fresh off his 27-point performance against West Virginia, Graham did not score for the first since February 28, 2015 against Texas. That was 42 games ago.
Though the Jayhawks were never going to lose this game, it was encouraging to see them play so sharp in the process. Several times in the Bill Self era, we’ve seen Kansas sleepwalk through its tournament opener, creeping past a 15 or 16 seed behind a lackluster performance. Today, after needing a few minutes to clear the cobwebs out, the Jayhawks dropped the hammer on their opponent in a hurry.
Perry Ellis had 21 points to up his career total to 1,746. He is just eight away from sole possession of 10th place on the all-time Kansas scoring list.
The Jayhawks will play No. 9-seed UConn on Saturday afternoon. Kansas is looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 23 points (9/11 FG, 4/5 from three) and three rebounds in 24 minutes. He’s showing the potential that made him a projected lottery pick at the beginning of the season.
- Perry Ellis: 21 points (8/12 FG) and two rebounds. He played 25 minutes. He’s seven points behind Kirk Hinrich’s 1,753 to crack the top 10.
- Landen Lucas: a career-high 16 points (6/7 FG), and eight rebounds to lead the KU big men in 14 minutes.
- Wayne Selden Jr.: 14 points (5/10 FG) in 19 minutes. He had two posterizing dunks that surely excited Uncle Anthony, who was watching in Boston.
- Frank Mason: nine points (2/7 FG), and four assists in 27 minutes. He wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, but Kansas really didn’t need him for this game.
- Devonte’ Graham: zero points (0/3 FG), but a KU-high six assists. He played 24 minutes – the fewest total for him since December 19. It was the first time he did not score all year.
- Cheick Diallo: nine points (4/5 FG), four rebounds, and a huge block late in the game. All of that came in seven minutes. He was very impressive, albeit in garbage time against a 16-seed.
- Carlton Bragg: four points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
- Lagerald Vick: seven points, a career-high. He played a career-best 10 minutes.
- Jamari Traylor: no points, but a season-high nine rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes.
- Hunter Mickelson: two points and a rebound, but four fouls in five minutes.
- Besides the walk-ons, Brannen Greene and Traylor were the only Jayhawks to not score.
- Kansas: 56% from the floor, 38% from three, and 78% from the free throw line.
- Austin Peay: 41%, 27%, and 68%.
- This game had 50 fouls. That is way too many.