Jayhawks Find Depth, Buckets in Dominating Win Against Omaha.

Photo by Ethan Koch

By Ethan Koch

Sam Cunliffe knew he was going to play tonight.

After leaving Arizona State between semesters in 2016-2017, the guard from Seattle patiently waited for his turn. He missed the first nine games of the season, then only played two minutes against Nebraska on Saturday.

He finally had his opportunity with 12:54 in the first half, freeing him from the shackles of the bench.

“It was surreal. Being here for a year, watching all these games, you can sit on the sideline and still get that chill. This atmosphere, the people, just watching your teammates, and being out there, actually having a part of something was a great feeling and I’m actually super happy about it.”

Playing with hustle and unbridled enthusiasm, he ran the floor on a fast break, where Devonte’ Graham found him for an alley-oop with 10:22 on the clock.


For Cunliffe, it went better than he envisioned.

“To be honest with you, I kind of imagined it being a three, the first one, but I always knew that if I just got out and ran, somebody would throw it.”

“I was more nervous before the game then I was when I got in. When I started running around I just kind of tuned everything out and started to play.”

His coach knew he would be anxious to fire up shots. “He was pretty thirsty,” Self said. “He can probably share it a little bit more than just pull the trigger every time he’s open because he’ll be open a lot. But he learned those things.”

Cunliffe finished nine points, and the Jayhawks had five other players reach double-figures in a 109-64 triumph over Omaha. Svi Mykhailiuk led all scorers with 26 points, carrying his momentum from the Saturday’s game-winner with him tonight.

“It [my confidence] be on the same level, everyone has bad games, everyone has good games,” the Ukrainian forward said. “Today I just felt confident and after I make my first couple shots I just keep shooting.”

“When the ball goes in, obviously you look good…. I’m sure that shot at Nebraska gave him some confidence,” Self said regarding Mykhailiuk.

KU scored 55 points on 58.8 percent shooting, 71.4 percent from long distance in the first half. Self said the ball movement helped his team get open shots and allowed guys to flourish. The Jayhawks shot even better in the second half, nailing 65.7 percent of their shots.

Senior Devonte’ Graham finished with 17 points and 8 assists. Udoka Azubuike earned his second straight double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. The team collectively had 25 assists as well.

In the blowout win, Self played 11 players tonight, including walk-on James Sosinski, who finished with four points. The football and basketball player was just hoping not to embarrass himself.

“It was great,” the dual-sport athlete said. “I was the only person on the team not to play yet, so it felt good to get that off my back…I’m just happy I didn’t mess up too bad.”

With Cunliffe into the rotation, and the potential of adding Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, the Jayhawks can build depth. Adding more bodies to the roster, while finding the right combination and team chemistry on the court, is paramount for Self in the next few days.

“I thought, ‘how do I get all these guys in the game?’…It did feel like a much deeper team.”

The Jayhawks will travel to the west coast to take on Stanford in Palo Alto. Their game against the Cardinal will be their third game in six days.


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