No. 5 Kansas extinguishes Blazers to advance to CBE championship

In the KU’s first game of the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic, the Jayhawks overcame the UAB Blazers 83-63.

Kansas came out with a lot of energy on Tuesday. Josh Jackson was able to drive through the lane on the first possession like he was playing against a team full of senior citizens. The entire UAB team looked slow as Kansas opened up a 20-1 lead five minutes into the contest. If you’ve been impressed with Frank Mason, you should think highly of Devonte Graham as well. The junior punched in his first three 3 pointers to open up the lead.

The Jayhawks might’ve started hot, but it looked like the Sprint Center cooled quickly. After starting 4-6 from three, the Jayhawks would miss their next seven as the Blazers climbed back into the game. UAB rushed to an 11-0 run, and the Kansas lead slowly trickled to 10. Things got ugly quick, and Kansas was forced to call its second timeout after a pair of Blazer threes.

A young Jayhawk fan was eating his popsicle on a warm sunny day, then a Blazer showed up and liquified it to a puddle. Or that’s what it looked like, as the Jayhawks slowly let UAB back into the game. By halftime, the Blazers had clawed back and only trailed 39-30. Kansas still hasn’t recovered from the foul bug. After combining for over 100 whistles in Hawaii and New York, the Jayhawks were whistled well over the foul limit.

Kansas didn’t start hot in the second half, but it was good enough for the Jayhawks to claim a 14-point lead. Poor offense has stuck out like a sore thumb, and a lack of rebounds makes things ugly for the number five team in the nation. Josh Jackson can dunk and score, but the rest of his game has been inconsistent through the first three games. And his free throw shooting needs improvement as well. Midway through the second, the No. 5 Jayhawks found themselves up by 14, 60-46. Not a great performance, but just enough to stay comfortable with the Blazers. Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike were in a duel. Not with Birmingham, but with the foul monster, as both found a cozy seat on the edge of the bench with four fouls apiece.

Kansas’ offense is just fine, but there needs to be a better court vision. More selflessness. In so many great KU offenses, we see how well the ball is passed, and even though there is a good shot, there’s always a better one if you can see the court around you.

Oh yeah, and Josh Jackson did this:

Jackson finished the game for the Jayhawks. It isn’t a KU basketball game unless Josh Jackson pads a Kansas lead with a highlight reel dunk. After a struggle to end the first half, the Jayhawks prevailed in Kansas City, with an 83-63 win. Jackson put up 22 points and seven rebounds, while Frank Mason finished with 20 points before going out of the game with an apparent leg injury. Devonte Graham showed us why the backcourt is so deep, scoring 16 for the Jayhawks. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was terrific. The junior contributed 15 points on 4-5 from deep.

The Jayhawks are an unpolished team. While they feature potentially the best backcourt in the nation, their shooting is subpar, their foul trouble is horrendous and the rebounding has been an issue. Kansas’ frontcourt is the key to success. It is vital that the bigs play a better game, because the guards can only do so much for the team. Bragg, Lucas and Azubuike combined for just 10 points. Clean up the post play, and the Jayhawks are going to be one difficult team to deal with. Kansas can’t afford to play streaky. Wayne Selden struggled with consistency his entire Jayhawk career, and the 2016-17 team can’t head down the same path.

Kansas did all they needed to to advance to tomorrow’s CBE championship against Georgia. Tip is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Wednesday, as the Jayhawks look to claim their first trophy of the season.

Notes:

Carlton Bragg: 5 points (2-6 FG), five rebounds. Carlton struggled immensely on Tuesday. Kansas’ backcourt dominated the game and left their post behind.

Frank Mason: 20 points (8-13 FG), five assists. Mason was terrific for the fourth game in a row, and his Kansas’ scoring leader run ends at three.

Josh Jackson: 22 points (8-15 FG), five rebounds, four dunks. Josh Jackson might have put up 22, but his dunks were even better. Jackson will be on SportsCenter tonight.

Devonte Graham: 16 points (6-12 FG), seven assists. Graham played well when the rest of the team didn’t.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk: 15 points (5-8 FG, 4-5 three pointers). Svi was fire from three point range, and his improvement is already showing in the fourth game of the season.