Backcourt depth lifts No. 5/6 Kansas past UAB, 83-63

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Josh Jackson scored a season-high 22 points as No. 5/6 Kansas basketball cruised to a 20-point victory over UAB, 83-63, on Monday night at Sprint Center. The Jayhawks advance to face Georgia in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Central on ESPN2.

KU’s balanced backcourt added 20 points from Frank Mason III and 16 points from Devonte’ Graham as Kansas improves to 3-1 on the season. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 20-1 lead and weathered several runs by UAB before pulling away with its second-straight 20-point margin of victory.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk added four second-half 3-pointers and finished with 15 points to help the Jayhawks’ winning effort.

Kansas shot 50.8 percent from the floor and made a season-high 12 3-pointers, while forcing 20 UAB turnovers and holding the Blazers to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor.

UAB (2-2) was led by 13 points from Dirk Williams and 12 points from Tyler Madison.

The Jayhawks won the tipoff and didn’t waste any time enforcing their will. Jackson split the defense for a dunk on the first possession, followed by a steal by Mason and a dunk by Carlton Bragg Jr. Mason and Graham made consecutive 3-pointers to give Kansas a 10-0 lead and force a UAB timeout at the 17:48 mark.  

Tight interior defense by the Jayhawks forced muddled execution by UAB early. In the first five minutes of regulation, Kansas scored 10 points off five UAB turnovers.

UAB scored its first points of the game at the 13:28 mark of the first half on a free throw, but Graham immediately answered with a 3-pointer on the other end for a 20-1 Kansas lead.  

At the 12-minute mark Bragg’s second swat of the night quickly turned into the Jackson-Lagerald Vick show. Jackson grabbed the loose ball off the block and passed it to Vick, who returned it to Jackson for a fast-break dunk.

Another pair of KU’s dynamic guards, Graham and Mason, connected in a transition bucket to give Kansas a 25-3 advantage. Graham lobbed it to Mason for an athletic tip-in by Mason, the 5-foot-11 national player of the year candidate.

UAB’s first field goal of the contest came at the 10-minute mark of the first half on a layup by Chris Cokley. It would spark an 11-0 run by the Blazers.

A steal by Graham turned into a transition layup from Mykhailiuk that was goaltended – ending nearly a five-minute KU scoring drought at the 5:17 mark of the first half. But the Blazers continued to put the pressure on the Jayhawks with consecutive 3-pointers to cut KU’s lead to seven, 27-20.

Mason and Graham made a 3-pointer each with under a minute remaining in the first half to pad KU’s lead back to double-figures, 39-28. A last-second layup by UAB’s Deion Lavender decreased Kansas’ lead to 39-30 going into halftime.

At the break, Graham led Kansas in scoring with 12 points on four 3-pointers. Mason and Jackson also reached double-figure scoring by intermission – Jackson with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and Mason with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

UAB missed its first 12 shots of the night, but finished the first half by making seven of their last nine shots to cut KU’s 22-point lead to nine points at halftime.  

Jackson’s steal and the dunk helped lift Kansas to another dominant run to start the second half. Kansas went on a 9-0 run to begin the second half, holding UAB scoreless for the first five minutes.

Mykhailiuk gave Kansas a 53-39 after draining a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, followed by Udoka Azubuike converting an and-1 with the free throw to give Kansas a 56-39 advantage with 11:19 remaining.  

The pace of the second half was slowed by fouls as both teams were in the bonus just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

In the final five minutes of regulation, Jackson wowed the Sprint Center crowd with an acrobatic and-1 dunk while Mykhailiuk finished with three of his four 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the game.

Kansas faces Georgia Tuesday in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at 9 p.m. Central on ESPN2.


Game 4: UAB vs. Kansas (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)
Site: Kansas City, Mo.
Arena: Sprint Center
Attendance (Capacity): 10,071 (18,972)
Date: Monday, Nov. 21
Tipoff: 8:30 p.m. CST
Final Buzzer: 10:29 p.m. CST

Updated W/L Records
Kansas all-time: 2,189-837
Bill Self at Kansas: 388-84
Bill Self overall: 595-189
Bill Self vs. UAB: 3-1

• Kansas improved to 9-1 in the CBE Classic
• It took UAB 10:00 to record its first bucket of the contest, including a 6:32 stretch without any points, then the Blazers went 4:42 without scoring to start the second half. Kansas opened the game on a 17-0 run and led 25-3 before UAB’s Chris Cokley scored a lay-up with 10:00 to play in the first half.
• Cokley’s bucket sparked a 25-8 run to cut KU’s lead to five points (33-28) by the 1:36 mark just before halftime.
• The 22-point margin at 25-3 was the largest of the game until a Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk three-pointer pushed the KU advantage to 24 points with 1:40 to play.
• Kansas knocked down a season-best 12 three pointers, including four triples Devonte’ Graham and Mykhailiuk. It was the most by a Jayhawk team since last season, when Kansas also hit 12 against Holy Cross (12/9/15) in non-conference play.
• The Jayhawks led wire-to-wire, 39:49 of total lead time.
• Monday’s game against UAB marked KU’s 297th game played all-time in Kansas City, and its 38th in Sprint Center. KU is now 32-6 in Sprint Center including winning the 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016 Big 12 Championships in the venue and the 2012 CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

• Freshman guard Josh Jackson led Kansas in scoring for the first time in his young career, pouring in a game-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.
• Senior guard Frank Mason III contributed 20 points before leaving the game with an injury after a lay-up with 3:27 to go. He’s scored at least 18 points in all four KU games this season, including three games with 20 or more.  
• Junior guard Devonte’ Graham dished out a game-high seven assists and added 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
• Junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk drained four three-pointers while chipping in 15 points.
• Freshman forward Udoka Azubuike tied Jackson for the team high with seven rebounds and tied sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, Jr. for the game-high with two blocked shots.


Bill Self

On the start, drought and more consistent second half:
“I think we were up 17 to nothing and the one shot we missed was an uncontested lay-up that slipped out of Carlton’s (Bragg) hand. We played well and our defense was better and as good as we played that first eight minutes, we played that poorly for about eight minutes. I think we were stuck on 25, it had to be six minutes or so and then they played better and we finished the half average. Second half, we played pretty consistently well for the most part. It was a good win. Certainly, we have a lot of room for improvement.”

On what Kansas needs to improve on:
“We have to figure out a way to make it to the free throw line and when we do it’d be nice if some guys made some every now and then. We’re putting other people on the line too much and giving people free points.”

On Josh Jackson’s aggressiveness:
“I thought Josh played really well. He ran through a couple passes and had a couple highlight plays, but I don’t think that’s what made him play well. I thought he played smart. He got fouled and didn’t make his free throws, but he did some good things. Certainly, he’s an unbelievable talent that’s starting to get more and more comfortable all the time.”

On Josh Jackson’s dunks:
“He had angles to go after the rim more. The best play he made of the night was that last pass to Svi (Mykhailiuk). There’s a lot of things he can work on to get better obviously, but he’s a talented kid. I don’t know if we’ve had anybody of that size, that good with the ball.

On coaching a team that didn’t allow a field goal for the first 10 minutes of the game:
“They started out really shooting it bad. We defended them pretty well, but then I didn’t think our defense was very good. The last 30 minutes, it was average at best. It looked like our defense wasn’t good the second half of the first half, but it really wasn’t our defense as much as our offense. We defended really well, it shows you how we can defend when we’re energized and fresh starting the game.”

On the Sprint Center’s importance:
“I know we’re playing two games here then we’re coming over here and playing a game and we’ll play the Big 12 Tournament. So I haven’t really thought much about that. I think maybe we take that for granted that we know that we get a chance to play in this building. I love this building. It wasn’t a great crowd obviously, there were a lot of empty seats. Hopefully the fans can come out and see a good game tomorrow. Georgia’s good and it’ll be a competitive game with good athletes on the floor. We all love coming over here.”

On Frank Mason III being an unsung hero:
“It’s really, really nice, but I don’t think he’s an unsung hero. I think he’s National Player of the Week, so I don’t see him being unsung at all. I know he’s not in our mind. I know everybody appreciates him and understands his value. But he’s a quiet guy. The thing tonight and the last two games, he really just did okay and he gets 18 or 20. That’s nice and I do think we’ve got to limit his minutes, to let other guys play better we’ve got to limit his and Devonté’s minutes.”

On Udoka Azubuike showing improvement:
“Oh yeah, he’s going to get more opportunities moving forward. This isn’t being negative but we’re not getting production from our bigs. We get excited when our bigs make three baskets and two of them were totally uncontested, you don’t even have to earn them. There’s no reason why we can’t get him out there and give him an opportunity to do some things. We’ll lose some stuff from Landen (Lucas) when Udoka is in there. We lose some things with Landen’s intellect and things like that, but he has a way to get rebounds – especially on the defensive end – better than anyone else on our team. So he deserves an opportunity to be out there a little more.”

UAB Head Coach Robert Ehsan

Opening Statement:
It was a disappointing start for us, giving them the early lead. We had a tough time scoring. I give them a lot of credit, I thought they shot the ball extremely well, better than they have in their first couple of games. We were trying to play catch up the whole time. I thought we showed some good fight for certain periods of the game. We cut it to, I think, five or seven points there in the first half. (In the) second half we got it to about nine or 10, but we couldn’t get over the hump. Again, I think they’re very good. They’re obviously one of the best teams in the country. When they shoot the ball – Graham 4-of-9, Svi 4-of-5, Frank Mason 3-of-6 from the three – when they shoot it like that, they can beat anyone in the country. And they have, obviously. Tough to beat.”

On getting momentum back after slow start:
“I was somewhat worried about the environment. We don’t have the opportunity to play in venues like this, NCAA tournament style. Our group hasn’t really played in an arena like this since the NCAA tournament, two and a half years ago. Kansas is obviously more familiar, especially with this building. As they called a couple time outs I think we got a lot of great energy from the bench, which helped us. Once we got a little momentum going, we got them in foul trouble, I think we settled in. But again, you can’t spot – I don’t care who it is, let alone Kansas – 20 points and think you’re going to have a chance to pull out the game in the end. We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole to start.”

On cutting Kansas’ lead in the end of the first half:
“Watts missed the three, I think that would’ve maybe cut it to four or three. It was an open three in transition. The other thing was they made timely threes. The two threes, I think Mason made one and Graham made one, to end the half were kind of back breakers. If they missed those it would’ve been a three- or four-point game. I thought the energy, the emotion was switched. We were excited going into halftime. I thought if we could come out and make a run and start the second half we would be in a good spot. Again, they’re Kansas for a reason. They make some tough shots. They got some offensive rebounds. They were bigger than us. They got a couple early baskets in the first half and early in the second half we turned the basketball over. We just couldn’t get going.”

On Josh Jackson:
“I think he’s good. I saw him in high school, as most people did. But the more I’ve watched film on him, he’s an extremely talented player. His versatility is what I’ve been surprised with. How many different things he can do on the floor: right hand, left hand, drive, post-up. Obviously, he is very athletic. I think he’s a tremendous player.”

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