LAS VEGAS (AP) — Asked what he thought about his team’s first true road game, Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t mince words.
“I don’t think much,” Self said.
Josh Jackson scored 21 points, Svi Mykhailiuk had 20 and Frank Mason III added 13, as the third-ranked Jayhawks fought off UNLV’s second-half rally and held on for a 71-53 victory Thursday night, extending their winning streak to 11 games.
The Jayhawks (11-1), who got 12 rebounds and four points from Landen Lucas, haven’t lost since a season-opening 103-99 overtime setback to Indiana, in Honolulu.
UNLV (7-6) was led by Tyrell Green’s 12 points, with Jalen Poyser and Uche Ofoegbu adding 10 points each. It was the Runnin’ Rebels’ third loss to a Top 25 team in their last five games.
“I thought we actually played really good early, and I thought we defended and rebounded pretty well early,” Self said. “We didn’t play very well the second half. They were obviously better than us in the second half. If you tell us before the game you would win by 18 on the road, you definitely take that. We had a chance to play much better than that.”
UNLV opened the second half on a 15-7 run, cutting into Kansas’ lead, making it 49-35 with 14:30 to go. In that span, the Jayhawks shot just 30 percent, while the Rebels hit 6 of 7 (85.7 percent).
Moments later, Jackson shifted momentum back in Kansas’ direction when he drove baseline for a vicious slam dunk to push the Jayhawks ahead 56-40, while igniting a 6-0 run. Kansas extended its lead to 64-44, while the Rebels missed eight of nine shots.
But UNLV wasn’t done, as an 8-0 run by the Rebels cut the lead to 12 with a little less than 4 minutes remaining.
Mykhailiuk’s slashing layup down the right side of the key ended Kansas’ scoring drought, which he followed up with a 3-pointer a minute later to essentially seal the victory.
“We won, and it was a good game, but I don’t think we played really good,” Mykhailiuk said. “We made some stops, but we had to play really, really hard to get the win.”
Kansas, which is 5-1 away from Allen Fieldhouse, finished the game shooting 44 percent (28 of 63), while UNLV shot 35 percent (19 of 55). The Jayhawks scored well below their average, as they came into the game averaging 88.0 points and had scored 89 or more in each of its previous six.
“Svi was good tonight,” Self said. “Josh got us off to a good start in the first half, and Svi was our best player in the second half. This is a good road win. You got to guard and you got to rebound when things don’t go well, and we did that at times, but I didn’t think this was how you’re supposed to close a game out.”
Lucas said the Jayhawks could have very easily been looking forward to their Christmas break. The entire team was scheduled to depart individually from Las Vegas to their hometowns on red-eye flights, so they could spend time with their families for the holidays.
“This game could be kind of a trap game,” Landen said. “We’re going home for Christmas and stuff, so we knew we had to come out here and handle business. We got guys thinking about flights, guys thinking about being home with their families, which is OK, but you want to push that off until after the game.
“I think in the second half, once we kind of had a lead, UNLV is still a good team and we didn’t take them that seriously as we should have to start the half and they came back and made it a game.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks improved to 11-3 in games preceding Christmas under Self’s watch. Since a 14-point loss to Nevada in 2003, in his first season at Kansas, Self has put his players on notice there is no room for mediocrity heading into Christmas break.
UNLV: UNLV’s other Top 25 losses included a 20-point setback to Oregon and a 49-point thrashing at the hands of Duke. And despite starting the season with just three returning scholarship players, the Rebels concluded their non-conference slate above .500.
Kansas will take eight days off before opening Big 12 play at Texas Christian on Dec. 30.
UNLV opens its Mountain West Conference schedule next Wednesday at Colorado State.