Graham, KU find rhythm in the first half to beat Toledo

Photo by Ethan Koch


Post by Ethan Koch

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Devonte’ Graham, coming into the game shooting 34.5 percent, exploded for a career-high 35 points against Toledo. From finishing at the bucket to splashing threes from Lecompton, Graham used his entire offensive arsenal to power the Jayhawks to a 96-58 win.

“He shot it, he handled it, he did what he wanted off the ball screen, and he defended well too,” coach Bill Self said about his senior leader.

Graham came into the game with a different mindset, looking to attack on every possession.

“Just wanted to come out, be aggressive. My shot was falling so I just kept attacking off the pick-and-rolls, trying to get into the paint and my guys did a good job finding me for the open threes,” Graham said after shooting 14 of 19 on the court, including 5 of 8 from three.

Knowing his shot was off, Graham dedicated more time in the gym this last week to find his shooting touch. “I’ve been putting up some shots at night,” the senior guard said. “Coach T [Coach Kurtis Townsend] has been on me about holding my follow through, and I think listening to him and getting in the gym, I felt really good.”

The Rockets competed, shooting 55 percent for the first 20 minutes and trailing 16-14 with 12:34 left in the first half. Then, Mitch Lightfoot sinks a jumper, sparking a 32-3 run. That run was apart of a 59 point first half where Kansas shot 75 percent, including 9 of 11 from beyond the arc.

“We were really good the first half…whatever they did we just made a shot,” Self said. “I’m not sure it was good offense as it was shooting the ball well.”

The hot-handed Svi Mykhailiuk made his presence felt during that stretch. The senior shot and made all three of his three point attempts during the run. Svi finished the half firing a three at the buzzer. He rushed the shot, he lost his footing. A Toledo Rocket defender darted at him to contest it.

It did not matter. Splash, buzzer, halftime.

“I knew it was going in. It was a great shot, great pass by Legarald [Vick],” Graham said giving praise to Mykhailiuk. And he was hot…. he’s been hot to start the season.”

Mykhailuik finished with 15 points, shooting 5 of 6 from downtown. He came into the game averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting 51 percent from three. Redshirt sophomore guard Malik Newman finished with 17 points.

Svi Mykhailiuk warming up. Photo by Ethan Koch

Kansas held Toledo to 40 percent shooting and forced the Rockets to cough up the ball 20 times. Senior Tre’Shaun Fletcher came into the game leading the Rockets in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He finished the game with 12 points and four turnovers.

Coach Tod Kowalczyk walked away from this game impressed. “That’s a very, very good basketball team. I’m not a Kansas historian by any stretch, but I can tell you this, in 30 years of college coaching that’s as good of a team as I’ve ever seen.”

The schedule ramps up for the Jayhawks as they travel to Syracuse to play Jim Boeheim’s Orange before playing Washington at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Jayhawks will also host Arizona State, who just cracked the top 25, December 12.

Self knows his team is playing well, but also understands what lies ahead.

“With the exception of one game we’ve shot it well, we’ve defended fairly well, as we haven’t rebounded as well as what we can, but hopefully that will continue to get better….our schedule has just started.”