No. 2 Kansas romps behind Graham’s big night
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The impression Kansas left on another outmatched visitor to Allen Fieldhouse was quite favorable Tuesday after the No. 2 Jayhawks dismantled Toledo 96-58.
“I‘m not a Kansas historian by any stretch,” said Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk, “but in 30 years of college coaching I haven’t seen a better basketball team.”
The Rockets actually shot 55 percent in the first half, including seven makes from 3-point range, yet trailed 59-30 at the break after a devastating scoreless stretch of 5-plus minutes.
Senior guard Devonte’ Graham saw to that, leading the Jayhawks (6-0) on a 30-2 first-half run.
Although Graham had been averaging fewer points (12.0) than any of the Kansas starters, he scored a career-high 35, including 23 on 9-for-12 shooting in the opening half. He added five assists and five rebounds.
“Just coming out aggressive helped. My shot was falling, so I kept attacking,” said Graham, who went 14 of 19. “My shot did feel good in warmups. I’ve been putting up some shots at night. Coach T (Kurtis Townsend) has been on me about holding my follow-through.”
After shooting 75 percent in the first half, Kansas went on a 13-0 tear to begin the second half. During that segment, Graham matched Toledo (3-3) in overall scoring, 30-30.
“I can’t speak for them, but they were probably a little shell-shocked from that first half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You make seven 3s and you’re down 29 at half. That would be pretty demoralizing.”
The Jayhawks led by as many as 51 and finished with 59.1 percent shooting.
“He shot it, he handled, he did what he wanted off the ball screen and he defended well too,” Self said of Graham, the preseason Big 12 player of the year who replaced Frank Mason as the Jayhawks’ primary point guard this season.
“We put him on (Tre‘Shaun) Fletcher and I thought Devonte did well on him the first half. He’s played well all year but he hasn’t seen the ball go in the hole, so that was good to see.”
Sophomore guard Malik Newman added 17 points and Svi Mykhailiuk 15 as the Jayhawks bumped their average winning margin at home this season to 34.8 before traveling to Miami on Saturday to play Syracuse.
“They’re in ice skates when everybody else is in sneakers. They’re that fast,” said Kowalczyk after the Jayhawks scored 22 fast-break points and gained a 32-7 advantage off turnovers by forcing 20, including 14 in the first half.
“At the end of the day it’s about having fun and competing,” said Newman, “and I think that is the reason we’re able to go on the runs we made.”
The Rockets came in with three scorers exceeding a 16-point average, including Fletcher (19.8), a senior guard. Junior guard Jaelan Sanford (18.2 and junior forward Nate Navigato (16.6) also ranked among the top scorers in the Mid-American Conference.
Fletcher and Navigato scored 12 each to pace the Rockets. Sanford, named to the preseason watch list for the Henson Award, presented annually to the nation’s top mid-major player, added nine points.
NOTES: Freshman F Billy Preston remained out the Kansas rotation. He has not played yet this season as the Kansas compliance office investigates financial connections with his vehicle. ... Kansas sophomore C Udoka Azubuike entered the game as the Division I leader in field goal percentage. He came in 36 of 49 (77.6 percent) and went 6 of 9 against Toledo, with 12 points. ... The 6-0 start is the first for the Jayhawks since the 2010-11 season. ... Kansas extended its nonconference home win streak to 24. ... The loss was the 12th straight for Toledo against ranked opponents dating to a 2002 victory over No. 14 Michigan State.