Graham leads 3-point shooting display as No. 11 Kansas beats Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — Kansas was prepared to beat Texas by spreading the floor and shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, but when the Longhorns’ Mohamed Bamba blocked nearly every shot the 11th-ranked Jayhawks took in the paint in the first half, living on the outside made discretion the better part of valor.
Devonte’ Graham scored 23 points and Lagerald Vick added 21 as Kansas put on a shooting clinic to beat Texas 92-86 on Friday at the Frank Erwin Center in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
The Longhorns (9-4, 0-1 Big 12) trailed 86-72 with three minutes remaining but Eric Davis Jr. scored the next eight points and Matt Coleman hit a put-back to get them to within 86-82 with 22.7 seconds remaining. Kansas then got four free throws from Malik Newman to quell the Texas comeback.
Kansas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) hit 17 of its 35 shots from beyond the arc and had more baskets from long distance than it did from inside the line (14) en route to its eighth straight win over the Longhorns. Graham had six of those threes, and Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk had five each, all of which proved too much for the Longhorns down the stretch.
Udoka Azubuike added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks while Newman also scored 13 points.
“I told them before the game that we were gonna shoot 35 threes, and we did,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t do much in the paint because we couldn’t because (Bamba) could have blocked the sun — he was like an eclipse. Our guards took some soft shots at the rim and Bamba just erased them, and that got him going.
“We shot the ball great tonight from outside and we needed to,” Self added. “We played pretty well as a team. We didn’t rebound very well, but we competed really hard.”
Bamba paced Texas with 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots. Dylan Osetkowski and Coleman hit for 17 each, Kerwin Roach II added 13 points and Davis tallied 12, all in the second half.
“That was one of the better 3-point exhibitions that I’ve witnessed, and it changed the way the game was played,” Bamba said. “We kept fighting back but they made the plays at the end of the game to win.
“There’s definitely hope from this — we just played a team that made 17 threes and we lost by six points. But there’s no statement made in a losing game. There’s plenty to be proud about from this game but we have a lot to work on.”
Coleman’s reverse layup at the 4:50 mark, which came after Bamba’s fourth blocked shot of the first half, allowed the Longhorns to tie the game at 28.
Graham’s 3-pointer with one minute to play in the half gave Kansas a 37-34 lead at halftime.
“Coach has been after us about turning down open shots and taking advantage of taking the chances the opposition is giving us,” Graham said. “We didn’t get much done in the paint because it seemed like Bamba was blocking everything we tried. We listened to what coach told us, and did a good job of running the plays for 3-pointers, and made the shots.”
Bamba led all scorers at intermission with 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting — two of the missed shots were on the same possession that ended up in a third shot on which he was fouled — and eight rebounds.
The Jayhawks came out on fire from long distance in the first nine minutes of the second half, canning seven of their nine 3-pointers over that stretch to move to a 67-55 lead. But Texas refused to buckle, clawing back to 67-61 on four points by Osetkowski and a dunk by Bamba at the 10:02 mark.
“Kansas deserves a lot of credit for the shots they made — 16 threes between three players is very impressive,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said afterward in a hoarse voice caused a cold and by his loud directions to the team during the game.
“They make you pay, and there were a few stretches in the game that we didn’t have the defensive focus that we needed. Most nights we are a good defensive team; we really weren’t tonight.”
NOTES: Kansas has won 13 straight Big 12 titles and a now has garnered a mindboggling 27 straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season. The last time the Jayhawks lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991. ... Texas G Andrew Jones (wrist) played for the first time since Dec. 5 and scored five points in nine minutes ... Kansas has won 60 all-time conference titles, which is more than any school in NCAA Division I history. Kentucky is next at 54 and Pennsylvania third at 37. ... Longhorns’ coach Shaka Smart was assessed a technical foul with 3:43 remaining and Kansas leading 81-69, his first since Feb. 20, 2017 at West Virginia. ... The Jayhawks now lead the all-time series with Texas with 30 wins in 38 games and has won four straight times in Austin.