LINCOLN, Neb. – Trailing 72-70 with less than 30 seconds remaining, Kansas senior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk connected on the go-ahead three-pointer to help the No. 13/12 Jayhawks to a 73-72 win over Nebraska inside Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night. Sophomore Udoka Azubuike led all scorers with a career-high 26 points, while senior Devonte’ Graham added 18 points.
The win broke a two-game losing skid for the Jayhawks, who moved to 8-2 on the year. Nebraska fell to 7-5 in 2017-18.
With the Jayhawks in a two-point hole and staring a third-straight loss in the eyes, Graham found Mykhailiuk with some space on the left wing, where he connected on his second and biggest 3-pointer of the game to put Kansas ahead 73-72 with 20 seconds remaining.
On Nebraska’s ensuing possession, the Cornhuskers managed to get off a pair of shots, but could not get the lid off the rim. Azubuike finally corralled the ball to pull down his 10th rebound of the game, throwing it to the other end of the floor as time expired.
While Kansas seemingly had to come-from-behind late, the Jayhawks led for much of the contest.
Azubuike paced the Jayhawks in the early minutes, helping his team weather a quick 4-0 deficit by scoring six of KU’s first nine points. Graham also was key to KU’s early offense, hitting each of his first four shots. The senior guard was in double figures before the second media timeout with his 11 points as the Jayhawks held the 21-15 advantage just before the midway point of the opening half. The Azubuike-Graham combination produced each of the Jayhawks first 10 field goals and saw KU maintain a seven-point lead at the 9:31 mark.
The Cornhuskers fought their way back over the next five minutes though and used a 12-5 run to knot up the score at 30-30 with just under four minutes to play before the intermission. With the Pinnacle Bank Arena fans on their feet, Mykhailiuk quieted the crowd with a jumper before another Azubuike dunk and a pair of Mitch Lightfoot free throws helped get Kansas the slight edge at halftime at 36-33.
Azubuike and Graham kicked off the second half much like the first, scoring nine of their team’s first 11 points, with Azubuike putting in three buckets and Graham connecting on a 3-pointer. Lagerald Vick got the Jayhawks up 49-43 on a lay-in at the 14:27 mark, but once again Nebraska refused to let KU build its lead any further.
A pair of treys from Isaac Copeland and Thomas Allen sandwiched an Isaiah Roby jumper that pulled the Cornhuskers level with the Jayhawks at 51-51 with more than 12 minutes to play in regulation. Two minutes later Glynn Watson Jr. shot in his first three of the game to hand his squad its first lead since the early minutes, 54-53.
Kansas didn’t panic and seized back the momentum moments later when Mykhailiuk hit his first 3-pointer of the game to kick-start a 9-2 KU run that gave the Jayhawks a 66-59 lead. But as they had done all game, the Cornhuskers found a way to cut into the KU deficit.
Two NU field goals and a pair of charity shots made way for a James Palmer Jr. 3-pointer to put his team back in the lead, 68-66, with 2:30 left to play. Following a Bill Self timeout, Lagerald Vick sent in an alley-oop slam to tie the score back up, but Anton Gill responded with two free throws on the other end. Nebraska back on top with less than two minutes remaining.
Azubuike tied up the game on a put-back tip-in with his 25th and 26th points to pull the score back to even at 70-70 as the clock ticked past the one-minute mark. Nebraska wasted little time in going ahead once again after Palmer Jr. got into the paint and put in a shot over the outstretched arm of Azubuike. With the bucket, the home side held a 72-70 advantage.
Mykhailiuk connected on what would be the game-winning 3-pointer 20 seconds later and, following the defensive stop on Nebraska’s final chance, Kansas secured the 73-72 win.
Azubuike’s career-high 26 points were highlighted by another efficient night from the field. The NCAA’s field goal percentage leader made 13 of his 17 attempts. His career night was also paired with 10 rebounds, marking the third double-double of his career.
Graham scored in double-figures for the sixth time in his last seven outings, netting 18 points on a 5-of-11 clip from the field which included 4-of-7 from beyond the three-point line. Mykhailiuk was the third Jayhawk in double figures with his 14 points, 12 of which came in the final 20 minutes.