The star of Saturday’s Kansas University-Oklahoma thriller doesn’t plan to let a career-best performance inflate his ego.
“We can’t live off this game. There can be no hangover from this game. It’s on to the next,” KU sophomore guard Devonté Graham said, well aware that his 27-point outing and sticky defensive performance on Buddy Hield — as well as the Jayhawks’ 76-72 victory over the Sooners — won’t mean anything if KU fails to take care of business tonight against Oklahoma State.
Tipoff for the matchup between the Jayhawks (21-4, 9-3), who are tied for first place in the Big 12 standings with West Virginia, and the eighth-place Cowboys (12-13, 3-9) is 8 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse, with a live telecast on ESPN (WOW! Cable channels 33, 233).
“We went down there, didn’t play to the best of our ability, and we got embarrassed,” Graham said of KU’s 86-67 loss to OSU on Jan. 19 in Gallagher-Iba Arena. “We’ve got to be prepared Monday because they are a good team.”
OSU, which is 1-5 in league action since the KU game (the Cowboys also beat Auburn in the Big 12/SEC Challenge), is coming off Saturday’s 58-55 home victory over Kansas State.
OSU improved to 1-2 without the injured Jawun Evans, a 6-foot freshman guard who burned KU for 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds in Stillwater. He’s not expected to be back for tonight’s contest.
“It was fun,” KU coach Bill Self said of Saturday’s win at No. 3-ranked OU (20-4, 8-4), “but it doesn’t do anything unless we take care of business the rest of the way. We’ve still got a lot of hard games left in the conference race.
“Oklahoma State beat K-State at home, so they’ll have some momentum coming into our place. This (OU contest) was a huge game, two Top-10 teams, now we have a chance to play somebody who already beat us, then have a chance to go to our in-state rival and play the Wildcats (5 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan). We all know how good they can play at home, obviously beating OU, and they beat us the last two years there. We obviously have a lot of work left, but certainly we put ourselves in a much more favorable position than we would have leaving here (Norman) with an L.”
Self and his Jayhawks obviously were talking about OSU, not OU, at Sunday’s short practice and film session. Fans and media, however, may still have memories of Saturday’s contest alive and well right up until tip time tonight.
KU on Saturday received a monumental effort from 6-foot-2 Raleigh, N.C., native Graham, whose previous career scoring high was 22 set in KU’s 109-106 three-OT victory over OU on Jan. 4 in Allen.
“He was as good today as anybody’s been at Kansas since I’ve been here for a game,” Self said. “His defense on Buddy was remarkable. He played 39 minutes, and then he took over the game offensively — just took it over. He was special.
“That’s what we said on the board (before game): ‘Be special today.’”
Graham, who helped hold Hield to 5-of-15 shooting and 24 points (six points and no buckets the first half), said the initial plan did not have him shadowing Hield the entire contest.
“At first we were going to throw different guys at him — Frank (Mason III), Wayne (Selden Jr) just to keep him guessing on who was going to be guarding him,” Graham said. “As the game went on, I was guarding him pretty well. I said, ‘Let me guard him. I got him.’ I kept guarding him throughout the whole game.”
Graham admits it was fun chasing Hield around.
“We were talking to each other throughout the game, not trash-talking but competitive-talking,” Graham said. “I don’t think he’s lacked confidence at any time in his career. He made shots in the second half. He came out on fire.”
Graham hit a career-best six threes on the offensive end.
“I was just being confident in my shot,”he said. “That is from the coaches. When I pass up open shots, they get on me for doing that. It can hurt the team. You’ve got to take the open shot when it’s there.”
Now it’s on to tonight, when KU gets a second shot at Oklahoma State.
“They handed us our worst loss of the season. We’re excited,” Selden said.
“They put a ‘whooping’ on us. We’re looking forward to playing them again,” senior forward Jamari Traylor said.
Concluded Self: “Guys will be excited. I think they’ll come down off (this) emotional high. We’ll be flat physically, but the fact is, Oklahoma State beat us handily the first time. If we have to play a game Monday night, I’m glad it’s somebody that already beat us so we can be motivated like that.”
The series: KU leads the all-time series, 110-57. KU has won eight of the last 12 meetings. ... KU is 60-11 against OSU in games played in Lawrence, including a 45-9 record inside Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas has won 18 of the last 19 meetings in Allen. OSU’s lone win was 85-80 on Feb. 2, 2013. ... Since the inception of the Big 12, Kansas is 21-10 versus OSU: 16-8 in regular-season play and 5-2 in the Big 12 tournament. ... Self is 14-11 all-time against his alma mater, including a 13-8 record at KU, while Travis Ford is 5-9 versus KU. ... Earlier this season, in OSU’s 86-67 win, Mason led KU with 14 points, while Perry Ellis scored 13 and Graham 10. Mason and Landen Lucas led KU with five rebounds. Evans led all scorers with 22 points.
OSU coach Travis Ford after Saturday’s win as reported by the Stillwater News-Press: “I told our guys to enjoy this. “We don’t get to enjoy it very long, but they need to enjoy it in the right away. We understand the challenge ahead (at KU).”
Noted Jeff Newberry, who had 10 points and 10 boards: “Emotionally, we’re happy. We needed that one bad. It’s never good when you’re losing and we went on the stretch that we did with not getting wins and people saying what they were saying and stuff of that nature. It’s just felt good as a team.”