LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self and Nebraska coach Tim Miles exchanged a few humorous words after the third-ranked Jayhawks rolled to an 89-72 victory over their former Big 12 foe on Saturday.
Turns out Miles was giving him a little jab.
“Come on, what do you have to complain about? Nothing,” Miles said, recalling their light-hearted conversation. “Sorry, the cheerleaders’ little thing on their pompom fell on the floor. You got it tough.”
Indeed, Self had just spent most of the afternoon riding the officials and riding his players.
Basically, spoiling for a fight.
But from Miles’ perspective, there wasn’t much reason: The Jayhawks made it look easy.
“I thought the first half we were really good, we were really solid. The second half we weren’t,” Self said. “We didn’t guard anybody, but the first half was good, so we’ll dwell on the positive.
“That’s what I always choose to do,” he added with a wry grin, “dwell on the positive.”
Frank Mason III had 18 points and seven assists without a turnover. Josh Jackson had 17 points and Svi Mykhailiuk added 15. Devonte Graham scored 14 and kept everybody calm. Landen Lucas was 5 for 5 from the field and finished with 12 points to give Kansas (9-1) an inside presence.
The result was a blowout despite the absence of forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who is suspended following his arrest Friday for misdemeanor battery. The part-time starter spent the game in street clothes.
“I don’t know anything more than I knew yesterday, which is very little,” Self said. “It’s not anything that’s worth commenting on because there’s no decisions to be made as far as finality goes until you hear what transpired, and certainly I’m sure people are trying to figure it out.”
Tai Webster led Nebraska (5-5) with 22 points. Ed Morrow Jr. finished with 16.
“Yeah, it was rough,” Webster said, “a tough environment to come into. The crowd is nothing like we’ve seen before, but they’re good at what they do. They pressure you full-court, every time you take it out, and they’re relentless. They’re tough.”
The Jayhawks rolled to a 54-34 halftime lead, but things started to go haywire after the break. They missed eight of their first 11 free throws in the second half, allowing Nebraska to claw back into the game.
What really set Self off, though, came with about 12 minutes left, when Mykhailiuk tracked down a loose ball and tried to throw an alley-oop pass to Jackson off the glass. Jackson’s dunk hit the rim and sprung into the air – and sent Self springing from his seat with an R-rated roar.
Asked who earned the brunt for it, Jackson or Mykhailiuk, Lucas chimed in: “Everybody on the court.”
It was Jackson who responded, though. He scored the next two baskets, then converted an emphatic jam, as the Jayhawks pushed their lead back to 20 and coasted the rest of the way.
“That’s a fast team, a skilled team, a powerful team. They can get you a lot of ways,” Miles said. “I was really proud of our guys. I thought the second half we showed some toughness, some resiliency to at least claw back and make it uneasy on them.”
Nebraska has lost five of six, including a blowout loss to No. 10 Creighton. The only win for Miles’ struggling team during that stretch came against South Dakota.
Kansas finished 14 of 25 from the free throw line, continuing a troubling trend. Jackson was 3 of 8, while Udoka Azubuike clanked three of his four attempts off the rim.
The Jayhawks’ sophomore forward pleaded not guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery after allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. Bragg had appeared in their first nine games, starting five of them, and is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16 minutes.
“I think one reason why in the first half we were more focused was because of it. I don’t know,” Self said. “But they seemed to be pretty focused in the first half, but it was a distraction, and with teams and throughout seasons, there’s going to be different things come up.”
Nebraska returns home to play Gardner-Webb on Dec. 18.
Kansas plays Davidson on Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.