Graham scores 35 — again — in No. 2 Kansas’ win
MIAMI — Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham may be known for his sharp passes and lobs to teammates such as forward Lagerald Vick for alley-oop dunks, but the image of a “pass-first” guard certainly doesn’t fit him.
At least not recently.
For a second straight outing, the senior from Raleigh, N.C., who came into the game ranked in the top five nationall in assists, scored a career-high 35 points in leading the No. 2 Jayhawks to a 76-60 victory over Syracuse on Saturday in the opening game of the Hoophall Miami Invitational at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Graham scored 35 in Tuesday’s 96-58 victory over Toledo.
He scored his team’s final 14 points of the first half when the Jayhawks (7-0) pulled out to a 35-21 lead, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers. The Jayhawks outscored the Orange 22-5 over the last eight minutes of the half.
“It’s just whatever the flow of the game is,” said Graham, who was 10 of 17 from the field, including 7 of 13 on 3-pointers. “I want to continue to be aggressive, and if I can get in the paint and make plays for others that’s what I’ll do.”
Graham also had five assists.
“The thing with Devonte’ is he is a point guard,” coach Bill Self said, “but he’s also a scoring point guard. He’s a guy that can score or make a pass to finish a play. I don’t think him taking that many shots is a negative —17 doesn’t sound like a lot of shots to get 35.”
The teams played on even terms for the first 12 minutes as neither had its offense in sync. The Jayhawks finished the period strong, however, and then scored the first six points of the second half to go up by 20.
The Orange (6-1) enjoyed a couple brief spurts that cut their deficit into single digits twice in the second half, but shot only 32.1 percent. Kansas shot 49.1.
“I thought our defense was good,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Our offense, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Guard Tyus Battle led the Orange in scoring with 28 points but needed 20 shots (making seven) to get there. He played despite sitting out most of the second half against Toledo in his previous game with a back issue.
“I’m fine,” he said. “My back is fine.”
Kansas led 47-26 less than three minutes into the second half before the Orange managed to get something going. With the score 49-31, the Orange went on an 11-0 run that got them to within 49-42 before the Jayhawks regained control, pushing their lead back into double digits with a 5-0 spurt.
The Orange got their deficit down to single digits twice after that, but the Jayhawks had an answer each time.
“Our offense just wasn’t good enough today,” Boeheim said.
NOTES: Kansas C Udoka Azubuike entered the game tied for the national lead in field-goal percentage (75.9). The 7-0 sophomore was 3 for 3 on Saturday, all on dunks, making him 47 of 61 (77.0 percent) for the season. ... Syracuse’s first three baskets were 3-pointers, but the Orange missed their next 13 attempts from beyond the arc until G Tyus Battle ended the drought early in the second half. ... The Jayhawks are 7-0 for the first time since 2010-11, when they started 18-0, and for the fifth time under coach Bill Self in 15 seasons.