Svi’s peculiar 0-for-2 shooting game vs. TCU won’t happen again

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) elevates to the bucket against TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky (10) during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the strangest stat lines of the season, Kansas senior Svi Mykhailiuk, a 21-time double-digit scorer this season, played 36 minutes against TCU earlier this week and only attempted two field goals.

One missed 3-pointer less than 5 minutes into the game. One missed layup before the midway mark of the first half. And not one more shot the rest of the way for a skilled 6-foot-8 scorer who, even after a 1-point performance, is averaging 16.4 points a game.

Sure, Mykhailiuk had experienced off shooting nights this season for the Jayhawks. He only hit 3 of 12 shots and scored 8 points in a loss to Washington. He was a 3-for-10 shooter on his way to 7 points in a home win against Baylor. But two field goal attempts? From a player that so often has played confidently while both draining 3-pointers and driving to the paint?

Maybe KU coach Bill Self got a better sense of what happened after reviewing the game footage, because he didn’t really know what to make of it immediately after the Jayhawks’ 71-64 victory Tuesday night.

“You know what, not really,” Self said Thursday afternoon. “Watching the tape, I don’t know that he felt great. He did not look visibly himself. I don’t know if anybody else noticed that. There was something. I’m not saying sick-sick. He just didn’t seem quite energetic or talkative or himself. When other teams take you away like TCU did, then you’ve got to be able to work through that and adjust.”

Unlike so many previous KU opponents, TCU’s defenders didn’t experience numerous mental lapses and leave a 46.3-percent 3-point shooter open on the perimeter. Mykhailiuk surely would have fired away as usual if the Frogs had been so careless — even if he was a tad under the weather, an excuse Self said Mykhailiuk didn’t even consider admitting.

Defensively, TCU didn’t help much off of Mykhailiuk. In some instances coach Jamie Dixon called for his Frogs to focus so intently on KU’s typical high-volume shooter that the senior from Ukraine would find a man covering him immediately on the catch, sometimes with a second defender shading that way, too (as examined further in Scott Chasen’s 1-3-1 breakdown from the game).

Self credited TCU with making some “subtle” and “clever” adjustments to its perimeter defense to put Mykhailiuk through a more difficult night than most foes.

Mykhailiuk is averaging 13.3 shot attempts per game as a senior. His previous season-low for one outing was nine — twice, in 26 minutes versus Texas Southern, and in 38 minutes against Syracuse.

Even as a junior Mykhailiuk regularly took far more shots. Only once, amid a late-season slump, did he get off fewer than four attempts, when he went 1-for-2 at Oklahoma State while playing just 12 minutes.

From a production standpoint, Mykhailiuk relapsed back to his days as an underclassmen for one night. The lack of chances to get involved and contribute at times visibly frustrated the habitually buttoned-up guard.

But don’t count on this becoming any type of trend. Now 20 years old and far more confident than ever as a senior, Mykhailiuk is equipped to learn from the type of defense with which TCU challenged him, even if future Kansas opponents try and use it as a blueprint.

Now Self, his assistants, Mykhailiuk and his teammates all have seen an opponent take away one of the Jayhawks’ best offensive weapons. They will be able to learn from what went wrong and adjust if/when they run into a similar scheme.

Self, after re-watching the game, pointed out one very simple way Mykhailiuk and his teammates were held back in the quest to get the usually stable scorer at least a few more open looks.

“Think about this. How many shots do our perimeter get off of ball screens where help is forced? Half? Well, we didn’t force help off ball screens, because of the way they pre-switched it and did some things,” Self said, while crediting TCU for its strategy.

Whether it was perfect defense, his teammates not actively setting him up, the effects of illness or a cocktail of all three, count on the 0-for-2 line going down as an aberration for Mykhailiuk. KU wouldn’t be 19-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12 if it weren’t for the guidance he and fellow senior Devonte’ Graham have brought to the team.

Averaging 15.7 points in league games, Mykhailiuk is the Big 12’s 10th-leading scorer. Against conference competition, only Oklahoma super-freshman Trae Young (4.4 3-pointers a game) does more damage from outside than KU’s fourth-year shooter from Cherkasy, Ukraine (3.5 3-pointers a game). He shoots. He attacks bad closeouts. He sets up his teammates (2.9 assists per game on the year, 3.1 in conference).

And unlike in past seasons, senior Svi is too driven to become bogged down by one subpar performance.

“I think Svi’s been absolutely terrific,” Self said. “He’s had an unbelievable senior year. He’s been aggressive. But for whatever reasons, (the Horned Frogs) were able to take him away. And I don’t know if it was as much us or a combination of us and maybe him just not having that extra oomph to maybe fight through some stuff.”

Mykhailiuk, who averaged 21.8 points in his previous four games, gets a chance to rediscover his offensive impact Saturday at Baylor (1 p.m., CBS).