Kansas slips past Nebraska 73-72 to snap losing streak
LINCOLN, Neb. — His team down a point in the final minute, Kansas’ Devonte Graham never thought twice about passing to struggling teammate Svi Mykhailiuk.
Mykhailiuk had missed 19 of his previous 25 3-point shots over three games to that point, and he was wide open in the corner in front of the Jayhawks’ bench.
Graham penetrated and then delivered the pass to the senior from Ukraine. His feet set, Mykhailiuk launched the go-ahead 3-pointer, and the 13th-ranked Jayhawks survived a frantic finish to beat Nebraska 73-72 and break out of a mini slump Saturday night.
“No questions asked. He’s open, especially like that, you’ve got to get the ball to him,” Graham said. “Coach drew up a great play for the end of the game. They left Svi open in the corner. I had all the confidence in the world.”
Nebraska had two chances on its last possession. Anton Gill missed a 3-pointer and James Palmer Jr. got the rebound. He put up a shot from just outside the lane, but Udoka Azubuike blocked it and grabbed the ball before it rolled out of bounds. He threw it down court to run out the clock and complete the Jayhawks’ win over their former rival from the Big 12.
“It was really crucial for me,” Azubuike said. “He was just driving into the basket, and I had no other choice than to block it. As soon as I blocked it, I had to go and get it.”
Azubuike had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Jayhawks (8-2), who got all they wanted from a determined Nebraska team playing in front of a sellout crowd that stayed after to watch the Huskers’ volleyball team play in the national championship match on the arena big screens.
“Doke played great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the 7-foot, 280-pound sophomore. “That was the best game Doke has played since he’s been here. He was active. He rebounded the ball pretty well on both ends, and the play he made there late was terrific. And then to have the wherewithal to throw it to the other end was smart, too, because I’m sure they were yelling to foul him.”
Graham added 18 points and Mykhailiuk had 14 for the Jayhawks, who came into the game off losses to Washington and Arizona State.
“Svi’s been struggling and hasn’t been himself for about two weeks now,” Self said. “That was great to see the ball go in the basket for him.”
Palmer had 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Huskers (7-5). Freshman Thomas Allen, who turned down a scholarship offer from Kansas last spring, had a season-high 13 points, and Isaac Copeland had 12 points and nine rebounds.
“You look at the stats and it’s just deadlocked,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They made one more play than we did. That’s what hurts.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks avoided their first three-game losing streak since February 2013. The Jayhawks are still trying to get themselves right before Big 12 play starts Dec. 29 at Texas. KU hosts Omaha on Monday and plays Stanford in Sacramento, California, on Thursday before taking off seven days.
Nebraska: The Huskers lost three times during their toughest four-game stretch of the season, but this is an improving team that could surprise in the Big Ten.
FROST IN THE HOUSE
New Nebraska football coach Scott Frost was introduced before the Huskers’ starting lineups were announced. He came walking out of the tunnel through fog as the crowd came to its feet and roared. He stayed on the court as the lineup was announced, high-fiving the players, before retiring to a suite to watch the game.
Self rode Azubuike hard the last week for not maximizing his effort. Self implored the national leader in field-goal percentage to demand the ball more. He took a combined 13 shots in the previous two games. Against Nebraska he had 17 shots and made 13.
“I don’t think Doke is going to send me a Christmas card or a gift,” Self said. “He responded very well. He hasn’t played to his size as of late but he did today.”
Kansas hosts Omaha on Monday.
Nebraska hosts UTSA on Wednesday.