LAWRENCE — In advising Svi Mykhailiuk to return to college, scouts at this spring’s NBA combine delivered a clear message to the pro hopeful: Show us more.
The guard heeded their advice, and in the third game of his final college campaign, Mykhailiuk showed South Dakota State enough to last a lifetime.
Friday night’s contest at Allen Fieldhouse turned into a showcase for Mykhailiuk, who scored a game- and career-high 27 points in an eventual 98-64 victory for No. 4-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks shot 60.7 percent from the field, buoyed by Mykhailiuk’s 10-for-17 shooting performance.
Mykhailiuk also finished 5 for 7 from 3-point range with five rebounds and four steals in the offensive excursion for the Jayhawks (3-0), who also got double-digit scoring efforts from Lagerald Vick (22 points), Udoka Azubuike (17) and Malik Newman (13) and 11 assists from Devonte’ Graham. Mykhailiuk’s five treys represented the bulk of KU’s 13 on the evening on 27 attempts.
While it’s hard to say whether those NBA scouts saw what they wanted on this night, this much was clear: Mykhailiuk showed his coach exactly what he’s been itching to see.
“He was aggressive, and he showed tonight what we’ve kind of been waiting for, waiting to see,” Self said. “Come out and score a lot of points in bunches.”
The Jayhawks wasted no time painting an offensive masterpiece just three days after Self said his players “uglied the game up” in a poor-shooting, grind-it-out victory over Kentucky.
KU made eight of its first nine field goal attempts and cruised from there en route to a 29-point halftime lead. The opening stretch, which included an Azubuike shake-and-fake layup and a Newman drive and bucket that figuratively broke defender Brandon Key’s ankles and left him on the court, was capped by three straight 3-pointers by Mykhailiuk, Vick and Newman and an early 20-4 advantage for the Jayhawks.
A Mykhailiuk layup rimmed in and out to end the stretch of eight straight makes, but the Cherkasy, Ukraine, native would have the last laugh in the half. He immediately followed the miss with a layup, a trey and a fastbreak dunk set up by his own steal, a stretch that ballooned the KU advantage to 15.
The three-basket sequence seemed to show the versatility Mykhailiuk had lacked at points earlier in his Jayhawk career.
“I’ve been working this whole time to get better as an overall player, not just a shooter,” said the 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk, who also had a step-back jumper over a defender in the first half. “Just drive the ball, do different moves, finish different ways. So, yeah.”
With time winding down in the half, Mykhailiuk drained a corner 3. Showered with love from the sellout crowd as he jogged back into the tunnel, Mykhailiuk could hang his hat on a 19-point, 8-for-13 shooting opening half against the Jackrabbits (3-1).
“I mean, today felt good,” Mykhailiuk said. “As soon as I hit the first two (shots), I just started shooting the ball whenever I got open.”
Mykhailiuk played only 11 second-half minutes, limited by cramping issues, but it seemed to be a mostly precautionary measure — the guard smile and laughed on the bench as KU ran away with the 34-point romp.
Self said Mykhailiuk has been “on an uptick” since KU’s second exhibition contest, a stretch which most recently included his team-high 17 points against Kentucky. The guard’s assertiveness against the Jackrabbits just “kind of happened,” Self said.
“He shot the heck out of it in our shootaround too,” Self said. “He’s just confident right now.”
The entire evening was a banner effort for the Jayhawks, who recorded 19 assists before their first turnover, which came with 11:27 left in the contest. KU finished with seven turnovers — five committed by its bench players — and 10 steals in the blowout.
The Jayhawks played their third consecutive game without freshman forward Billy Preston, who must still wait to make his in-season collegiate debut.
The 6-10 forward and former five-star prospect is being withheld from the KU lineup as the university’s compliance department seeks a “clearer financial picture” of a vehicle he drove in a single-car accident on campus. The investigation led to Preston missing the Jayhawks’ 65-61 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Tuesday in Chicago.
Self said in the postgame news conference that there was no update to provide on Preston’s status.
“I think he’s been pretty mature. I think he’s handled it pretty well,” Self said of Preston. “He’s obviously disappointed and frustrated as everybody is, but I think he’s handled it better than I probably would if I was a kid in his situation.”
Preston also missed the Jayhawks’ season opener Nov. 10 against Tennessee State, suspended for missing curfew the night before and classes on game day, according to Self.
KU continues its nonconference schedule with a 7 p.m. Tuesday home game against Texas Southern. With Mykhailiuk, Vick and Graham all dealing with cramping issues Friday, Self acknowledged fatigue “could be” an issue moving forward, but said it’s important to contextualize the Jayhawks’ issues with tiredness Tuesday.
“You’ve also got to understand, we played Kentucky and played six players and got in at 4 ‘o’ clock in the morning too and slept a little bit that night,” said Self, who passed Roy Williams for second all-time on the KU career win list (419). “So there’s a reason they’re tired. We’ll take tomorrow off, we’ll practice on Sunday and I can’t believe we won’t be ready to go on Tuesday.”