Recap: Kansas concerned with defense after dominant win

Des Moines, Iowa — While a win in the tournament can never be called routine, the Kansas Jayhawks sure made it look that way. With a 105-79 win over the Austin Peay Governors, Kansas advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.

In the late going, sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk heated up from the field. Mykhailiuk scored 12 points in the second half and set a career high in scoring with a team-leading 23 points. When asked what got him going, Mykhailiuk said he focused on the one thing his teammates said needed to improve: defense.

“When I first got in the game I just tried to play defense first because if you’re playing defense,” Mykhailiuk said, ”offense comes naturally and I just made a couple shots and then I just kept going.” While a focused game defensively for Mykhailiuk, who committed only one foul, made for a career day, the rest of the team struggled. The reason Mykhailiuk was able to stay in the game for 24 minutes was because of guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham getting into foul trouble.

Amidst the blowout win, senior forward Perry Ellis could find some negatives in Kansas’ defense. Ellis contributed big in this game as well with 21 points. “We still could have done so many things better,” Ellis observed. “Even in the second half, we didn’t defend well. There’s so much more we can do defensively. We fouled them way too much.”

Kansas allowed Austin Peay to score 51 points in the second half, while the Governors only scored 28 in the first. Kansas committed a total of 23 fouls. Kansas coach Bill Self added in the post-game press conference that his team was unable to get into any sort of rhythm on the defensive side of the ball. Self also said that the calls being made in the game were strict on contact, but they went for both teams.

“We didn’t create any type of tempo or pace defensively in large part because they were in the bonus both halves by about the 16-minute mark,” Self said. “So you don’t play defensively the rest of the half. That did not help us at all.”

“We still could have done so many things better,” Ellis observed. “Even in the second half, we didn’t defend well. There’s so much more we can do defensively.”

For Ellis, focusing on the negatives amidst a dominant win is important. Coming toward the end of his senior year, Ellis has one more shot to take the Jayhawks to a national championship for the first time since 2012. “Because everything counts in this tournament, there’s so many little things you have to do right for your team to do great and to win,” Ellis said. “Just pointing those out will help us going forward.”

Kansas moves on to face UConn in the third round of the NCAA tournament. In NCAA history, Kansas and UConn have never faced each other.

Stay tuned for KJHK’s coverage of the NCAA tournament. Sam Davis and Dylan Sherwood will have the broadcast live from Wells Fargo Arena Saturday on 90.7 FM.