If Bill Self could choose how a given game was going to play out, what transpired on Saturday night is probably exactly what he would have asked for.
No. 3 Kansas was tested early, but it eventually got the kinks worked out to blow past the Davidson Wildcats, 89-71, on Saturday night at the Sprint Center. KU has now won 10 straight games.
The story of the first half was Davidson’s ability to hit three-pointers, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, KU’s horrendous 20 minutes of long-distance shooting. The Wildcats went 7-for-15 on threes in the first half, while the Jayhawks were shut out, missing all eight of their attempts.
Kansas started fast to claim a 17-9 lead, but it was Davidson that took a one-point advantage into halftime. All things considered, it’s pretty remarkable to be outscored by 21 on threes in a half and only be trailing by one.
Things evened out in the second half, as Davidson went 3-for-13 on threes while Kansas was 6-for-13. Trailing by five with 17:17 left, Devonte’ Graham missed two free throws to mark the Jayhawks’ low point of the evening, but Landen Lucas snagged the offensive board. This led to a three by Josh Jackson, KU’s first of the night. On the next possession, Frank Mason hit the team’s second three to give the Jayhawks the lead, and they wouldn’t give it up for the rest of the night.
Jackson had what is likely his best game as a Jayhawk thus far, going for 18 points on 8/17 from the floor. The 17 shots are the most he’s taken thus far in his college career. It was a strange game where only two KU players took more than nine shots, and the team would have been in trouble had he not taken the game over. The best part of Jackson’s night was his offensive rebounding, as he grabbed five offensive boards. Nearly all of these led to putback baskets. The Jayhawks dominated second-chance points thanks to 15 team offensive rebounds.
Landen Lucas did exactly what Kansas needed him to do as well. The senior center checked into the game just four minutes in after starter Udoka Azubuike picked up two quick fouls, contributing eight points and eight boards. Lucas played 21 minutes to just seven for Azubuike. Self started him in the second half, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get his starting spot back after Azubuike has had it for seven straight games.
Kansas led 60-58 with 10 minutes left, but the Jayhawks out-scored the Wildcats by 16 to close things out. Frank Mason turned what seemed like an uneventful night into another one of his 17-point, seven-assist, six-rebound nights. Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, who started for the first time since his freshman year, joined Mason and Jackson as the four Jayhawks to score in double-figures.
Other than one half of leaky three-point defense, the Jayhawks played pretty well defensively on Saturday night. They out-rebounded the Wildcats by nine, grabbed 10 steals, and blocked five shots to Davidson’s one. The team was tested for the first time in a month, and it responded with a sharp second half.
Bill Self saw what he likely wanted on Saturday night: his team was tested and fell behind in the second half, but it responded well and answered the call to cruise to victory.
- Josh Jackson: 18 points (8/17 FG), eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block in 27 minutes. He continues to be the definition of a utility player. There may be other freshmen with bigger statistical performances, but Jackson’s versatility makes him college basketball’s most valuable freshman.
- Frank Mason: 18 points (4/13 FG), six rebounds, and seven assists in 35 minutes. It seems like it was the first time all year Mason has struggled shooting from the floor, and he still turned in a great performance.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 13 points (4/8 FG) and three steals in 33 minutes. It was the first time Svi has started since the non-conference slate of his freshman year, and he played well despite not having his three-point shot. That’s a very encouraging sign.
- Devonte’ Graham: 10 points (5/8 FG), three assists, three steals in 32 minutes.
- Landen Lucas: eight points (4/6 FG) and eight rebounds in 21 minutes. Look, it’s pretty simple at this point: Lucas is KU’s best option at center. He’s not flashy. But a boring guy that rebounds and doesn’t shoot much is exactly what this team full of flashy shooters needs.
- Udoka Azubike: five points and no rebounds in seven minutes. Plus three fouls. Sophomore Azubuike is going to be the most imposing player in the Big 12, but he’s not quite there yet.
- Lagerlad Vick: eight points in 22 minutes.
- Carlton Bragg: seven points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes. It was quietly a really solid performance from Bragg, who was returning after a one-game absence.
- Mitch Lightfoot had a bucket in four first-half minutes.
- KU shot 49% from the floor, 29% from three, and 71% from the line.
- Davidson: 43%, 37%, and 65%.
- Next for Kansas: the Jayhawks will get their first road test of the year on Thursday night when they head west to take on UNLV.