Svi’s defense much improved during his senior campaign, Jayhawks say

Svi Mykhailiuk (left) has gotten praise from KU coach Bill Self for his defense this season. | Shane Keyser |

By Gary Bedore

Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas’ second-leading scorer at 17.1 points a game, has also earned high marks on defense through the first seven games of his senior season.

“He’s become one of our better defenders. I think you could make a case he and Devonté (Graham) are our two best perimeter defenders right now, with Lagerald (Vick) having a chance to become that, and Malik (Newman),” KU coach Bill Self said Monday.

“Honestly, the last two games (Toledo and Syracuse) he’s been pretty good defending,” Self added of Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 Ukraine native. “I don’t think they are going to say, ‘Get it to (No.) 10’s man (Mykhailiuk) and play take him’ like maybe they have in the past couple of years, because he’s really improved in that area.”

Self said Mykhailiuk, “has always had unbelievable pride (on defense). I think it’s maybe confidence or maybe a little bit of an extra effort to maybe play his man before he catches it. … He’s doing a good job of making his man catch it further out.”

Mykhailiuk’s teammates certainly have noticed the wing’s performance on ‘D’ for a KU team that has allowed opponents 61.3 points a game on 35.4 percent shooting.

“The last couple of years, Coach would get on him for defense and say, ‘They are just going to drive you every time they get the ball, Svi. You can’t be that guy who lets us down on the defensive end,’ ” said KU senior forward Clay Young. “The last couple of years he wasn’t our best defender, but this year he’s actually been a pretty good defender, staying down on guys, moving his feet, cutting people off. I think his defense has improved a whole lot.”

Senior guard Graham said of Mykhailiuk, “He’s one of the best sliding his feet and keeping his guy in front of him. Last year and the year before they’d try to pick on Svi and drive him. I think he took offense to it. He’s one of the best lockdown defenders for us.”

Graham nets Big 12 honor

Graham was chosen Big 12 player of the week Monday after scoring 35 points against both Syracuse and Toledo. He also was selected and Lute Olson Award national player of the week.

“What do you know? One of our guys actually got an in-season honor,” Self said sarcastically on Monday. No Jayhawk had won Big 12 player of the week the previous three weeks of the 2017-18 season.

“Devonté had 35 with 8 minutes left against Toledo and 35 with about 5 minutes left against Syracuse. I don’t know if we’ve had anybody ever score the ball that well when the game is still in balance, so to speak, even though the Toledo game wasn’t,” Self said

“A lot of times guys get points being ahead late and they foul or are behind and have real short possessions. This was not a case of either one of those.”

If Graham scores 30 points against Washington in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game at the Sprint Center, he’d be the first KU player to score 30 three straight games since Danny Manning during the 1987-88 season. Manning had 31 against Duke, 30 at Oklahoma and 37 at Missouri in successive games.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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