AUSTIN, Texas -- As Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk hit a coffin-corner 3-pointer with three minutes to go -- the senior's fifth and the Jayhawks' 17th from beyond the arc -- a handful of Texas fans trudged up the stairs, exiting Section 27 of the Frank Erwin Center, almost chuckling. One of them muttered, "How are you going to stop that?"
It's a question the Longhorns had no answer for, and the Big 12 might not either, if this is a sign of things to come for the Jayhawks.
It's clear: Kansas' journey to a 14th consecutive Big 12 championship will rely on the 3-point line. It might not be Bill Self's preferred method of attack, but it looks to be his best one with this group, as evidenced by the Jayhawks' 92-86 road victory Friday night to open conference play.
No, the No. 11 Jayhawks probably won't shoot it as well from beyond the arc every night as they did Friday; that's impossible to ask. But facing one of the nation's best big men -- Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba -- and a stout frontcourt led by Bamba and junior forward Dylan Osetkowski, the Jayhawks showed it won't matter much if opponents can control the paint and deny shots from close range. Not if they're shooting like this.
The Jayhawks are averaging 11.2 made 3-pointers a game, which is on pace to be by far the most in school history. They're hitting them at a 42 percent clip.
"It's very difficult," Texas guard Matt Coleman said of defending the Jayhawks. "It's like playing the [Golden State] Warriors, almost."
Holding just a three-point lead at halftime, Kansas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) opened things up when Mykhailiuk hit consecutive treys less than four minutes into the half to open a 10-point lead. That set the tone for what the rest of the half would be. Every time the Longhorns (9-4, 0-1) threatened to make it a tight game, the Jayhawks launched from deep.
• Bamba converted a putback dunk to trim the Jayhawks' lead to six with 10 minutes left. Boom: Devonte' Graham hits a 3 to make it nine.
And so on and so on.
That's not to say Kansas didn't go inside and challenge Bamba, who Self said "could block the sun." Armed with their own quality big man, sophomore Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks challenged the 6-foot-11 Bamba plenty. The five-star recruit, who boasts a 7-foot-9 wingspan, turned them away over and over: eight times, to be exact.
One or two of the jaw-dropping blocks -- Bamba met most of them at the apex -- might have even been goaltending, but regardless, there was no doubting the prowess of one of the nation's best big men. When going one-on-one with Azubuike (13 points, 13 rebounds), Bamba won more often than not, blocking his shot on three different occasions. The freshman was fantastic, with 22 points and 15 rebounds to go with his exceptional defensive outing.
Bamba, however, didn't have the kind of shooters around him the Jayhawks have in spades. As a team, Kansas finished 17-of-35 from deep, shooting an impressive 11-for-20 in the second half. The Longhorns -- who aren't a proficient long-range shooting team themselves -- were the opposite, hitting just 7 of 25 attempts. Mykhailiuk (20 points, 5-of-10 3-pointers), Vick (21 points, 5-of-8) and Graham (23 points, 6-of-12) were the primary attackers. The shooting is and has been an issue for the Longhorns, one that they'll have to overcome in league play if they hope to achieve the lofty goals coach Shaka Smart has set for them.
As for Kansas, Self said it himself this week: The Jayhawks aren't yet a "grind-it-out" team and they'll likely need to hit big shots to win big games.
When notching their 27th consecutive conference-opening victory Friday night, they did just that.