Jayhawks sprint past Runnin’ Rebels, 71-53
LAS VEGAS – Third-ranked Kansas basketball extended its winning streak to 11 games with a 71-53 victory over UNLV on Thursday night at Thomas & Mack Center. Josh Jackson scored 21 points with nine rebounds and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk finished with 20 points in the final tune-up before Big 12 play.
“We played OK early, offensively. We could have got anything we wanted but we were impatient and shot too many threes and we didn’t make our free throws,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “Josh got us off to a great start. But (UNLV) didn’t make anything in the first half. In the second half we didn’t play as well … Certainly Svi bailed us out. I thought he played very well.”
Senior guard Frank Mason III joined his backcourt teammates with double-figure points, finishing with 13 and eight assists in 35 minutes.
With freshman center Udoka Azubuike suffering a season-ending wrist injury since the last time the Jayhawks suited up, senior center Landen Lucas stepped back into the starting lineup and recorded a season-high 12 rebounds in 27 minutes.
The Jayhawks (11-1) were active on the defensive end all night, holding UNLV (7-6) to a 34.5 shooting percentage – the second-lowest clip of the season by a Kansas opponent. Kansas started the night by shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, but leveled off in the second half to finish the night with a 44.4 shooting percentage from the field. Both teams shot under 50 percent from the free throw line.
Jackson made his presence felt in the first half, leading the Jayhawks with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the opening period. Mykhailiuk added 10 first-half points and Lucas grabbed seven first-half rebounds.
Kansas jumped out to leads of 15-5 and 25-9 before going into halftime with a 42-20 advantage. UNLV shot 29 percent from the field in the first half, eight percent from 3-point range, and 31 percent from the free throw line.
Jackson showed flashes of dominance from start to finish, including a driving on the baseline for a one-handed tomahawk jam to give Kansas a 25-9 lead.
The Jayhawks continued to work the ball around the perimeter, as Lucas worked the middle of the zone dumped it to Jackson on the blocks for a dunk, 30-12.
Coming out of halftime, Jackson didn’t waste any time in putting the Jayhawks on the board, slamming his third dunk of the night 15 seconds into the period.
Kansas shutout UNLV’s leading scorer, Jalen Poyser, in the first half, but Poyser started the second half on a tear – scoring five of the Runnin’ Rebels first points in the second half. Poyser finished with 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting on the night.
UNLV tried making things interesting by opening the second half on a 15-7 run, cutting into Kansas’ lead, making it 49-35 with 14:30 remaining. In that span, the Jayhawks shot just 30 percent, while the Rebels hit 6 of 7 (85.7 percent).
Jackson shifted momentum back in Kansas’ direction when he drove baseline for a vicious slam dunk to push the Jayhawks ahead 56-40, while igniting a 6-0 run. Kansas extended its lead to 64-44, while the Rebels missed eight of nine shot attempts.
UNLV wasn’t done yet, going on a 8-0 run during a three-minute Kansas scoring drought to cut the Jayhawks’ deficit to 12 points, 49-37, with less than four minutes remaining. But Mykhailiuk was there to answer, scoring a layup and a 3-pointer to put Kansas firing on all cylinders before the final buzzer.
Kansas begins its pursuit of an unprecedented 13-straight Big 12 Conference regular-season titles with the start of league play on Friday, Dec. 30 at TCU (8 p.m. CST, ESPN2).
KU STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER STARTS):
Sr. G Frank Mason III (12/89)
JR. G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (2/8)
Jr. G Devonte’ Graham (12/48)
Fr. G Josh Jackson (12/12)
Sr. C Landen Lucas (6/39)
Kansas leads the all-time series with UNLV, 6-0. Thursday marked the first meeting between UNLV and Kansas in Las Vegas.
• Kansas is 11-1 or better for the second-straight season and sixth time in the Bill Self era.
• KU’s 11th-straight win marks the 12th time in the Bill Self era that KU has posted winning streaks of 11 or more.
• Freshman guard Josh Jackson (21) and junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (20) both notched 20-point scoring efforts. It is the second time this season a Kansas duo has scored 20 or more points in the same game. The other occurrence was on Nov. 21 against UAB, when Jackson scored 22 points and Frank Mason III scored 20.
• Josh Jackson led the Jayhawks in scoring for the second-straight game and third time overall this season. Jackson shot 9-of-16 from the field, adding nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
• Kansas maintained a lead over UNLV for the entire game after junior guard Devonte’ Graham scored the first points of the night on a jumper at the 19:35 mark of the first half.
• KU’s 18-point victory is the sixth victory with a scoring margin over 15 points this season.
• UNLV edged KU in points off the bench, 14-9. It is the first game of the season Kansas’ bench has not reached double-figure points.
• UNLV’s 41.7 percent (10-for-24) shooting clip at the free throw line marks the lowest of the season by a KU opponent.
• Kansas held UNLV to 20 first-half points for the least points in a half scored by a KU opponent this season. The previous low was UNC Asheville’s 21 first-half points on Nov. 25.
• Senior center Landen Lucas grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, tying the most by Jayhawk this season for the third time. Lucas started for the first time since game five of the season on Nov. 22 against Georgia.
• Senior guard Frank Mason III recorded two steals to move into 22nd on KU’s career steals list with 134, passing Brady Morningstar ’11 (133). Mason also dished out eight assists for his 10th game of the season with five or more assists.
• KU’s win marks the program’s 2,197 all-time victory.
• The game was KU’s first and only regular-season game played on a Thursday.
• Kansas has held its opponent to a shooting percentage below 50 percent in all 12 games this season to date.
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