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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Devonté Graham deserves some credit for KU’s success

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three against Baylor guard Al Freeman (25) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13).

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three against Baylor guard Al Freeman (25) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13).

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Even members of a Kansas fan base that sets expectations for its basketball team higher than Andrew Wiggins ever dreamed of soaring sported expressions of disbelief at the way the Jayhawks overwhelmed a nationally-ranked opponent at the outset of Saturday’s Big 12 opener.

Looking so fast, so unselfish, so skilled, Kansas never gave No. 23 Baylor a chance en route to an impressive 102-74 showcase of why KU will be ranked No. 1 when the Associated Press college basketball poll is released Monday.

By the time just 6 minutes, 24 seconds had elapsed, Kansas already had a 24-4 lead that turned the happy crowd wild.

“We were energetic throughout the whole run and it was just fun,” sophomore guard Devonté Graham said.

As usual, the spotlight didn’t shine directly on Graham, because a teammate, in this case Wayne Selden Jr., had an even better game. Yet, as usual, Graham was right there in the middle of everything Kansas did well, which on this day was everything.

Coach Bill Self’s decision to start games with Graham and Frank Mason III in the backcourt and Selden as the third ball-handler has been a huge factor in KU’s terrific start. It’s enough to raise the question of whether the team would have been better a year ago with Kelly Oubre Jr. in a sixth-man role. Too late to worry about that. The lineup is clicking perfectly so far this year.

It’s always a good sign when a team practices what its coach preaches and Self forever paints the move into Big 12 play as a major step up, one that requires improved performances. Clearly, his players took that message seriously and evidence of that started before the 16,300 witnesses could see the players.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Selden, Ellis, Graham on blowing out Baylor

Kansas basketball players Wayne Selden Jr., Perry Ellis and Devonté Graham discuss the Jayhawks' Big 12-opening, 102-74 victory over Baylor, and a little about likely being ranked No. 1 next week.

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“First conference game,” Graham said afterward. “We were all in the locker room, hyped, jumping around, telling the young guys how it would be, like Carlton (Bragg), the crowd was going to be loud, we knew everybody would be excited for conference play and we know we’ve got to step our game up for conference play and we were just prepared.”

Just 128 seconds into the game, Graham spread his winning style all over the court, sandwiching a pair of three-pointers around a steal to give Kansas an 8-1 lead.

Graham celebrates his three-pointers and those of teammates, but does it in a way that pleases his coach.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on beating Baylor, facing OU on Monday

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discusses the Jayhawks' 102-74 win over Baylor to open Big 12 play, and the coming Big Monday showdown at Allen Fieldhouse with Oklahoma.

Download podcast

“Devonté’s a great compliment to Frank, because Frank’s not like that,” Self said. “Frank, during introductions, a guy may have to nudge him to make sure he’s awake to go out there. He doesn’t show emotion like that, even though he’s a fierce competitor, as everybody knows.

“But Devonté’s one of those guys who smiles and has personality and this team needs that. I think that we can be a little bit stone-faced at times and not quite as enthusiastic. I think Devonté and Carlton, more than anybody else, bring that to us.”

Graham matched his season high with 15 points and took just eight shots from the field. He also had four assists, three steals and not a single turnover.

Graham knows how to pressure defenses by getting to the lane and puts even more pressure on ball-handlers and passers at the other end. It’s fairly unusual for a player to have more steals than turnovers, but Graham has 25 steals and just nine turnovers. In the past six games, he has 21 assists, three turnovers and 11 steals. (Mason, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning also have more steals than turnovers.)

Self said that so far Selden has been the team’s “best player, hands down, but it’s a lot easier to play when those two little guys are out there with him. And I do have confidence in those guys being able to guard the ball and those guys being able to make plays for others.”

Graham also was a huge factor in another game in which Kansas raced to an amazing start. In a 92-73 victory against UCLA in Maui, a game in which Kansas took a 59-33 halftime lead, Graham held the Bruins’ Bryce Alford (17.4 points per game) to one field goal and a season-low six points.

Graham appears to be loving every minute of his sophomore season and won't let any pressure of a No. 1 ranking taint that.

He chose the perfect words to discuss that hot topic: “We might as well be happy with it and know guys are going to be coming for us trying to get that No. 1 spot, and we’ve got to be humble and hungry and just keep going at it and grinding."

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com’s live coverage


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Baylor



By the Numbers: Kansas 102, Baylor 74

By the Numbers: Kansas 102, Baylor 74

Comments

Joe Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Graham does lurk a bit in Mason's shadow. But it's clear now why Coach Self recruited him to Kansas. He's just a solid player all around and I cant be the only one thinking he seems more mature than his sophomore status would indicate.

Just got me to thinking though, that it's a good thing the NCAA didn't try to hinder Frank's playing time when he was a freshman like they did with Cheick Diallo. The fans may have turned Allen Field House into a masonic lodge. You know, with the whole "Free Mason" bit.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen Ill be here all night! (mic squelch)

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

{Rim Shot}

It's interesting to see how all of the Jayhawks are starting to find their rolls on this team - Hunter & Brannen in particular. As if they aren't already, this team could be crazy good in March/April if Carlton & Cheick continue to work in practice and on their own and have a Joel/Perry/Cole-esque development. Obviously Joel's came earlier and then was lost due to injury.

Fortunately, we have 4 dominant players right now, so we don't need Hunter, Brannen, 'Mari, Landen, Svi, or the freshmen to carry the team, control the game or anything like that. Just play your part.

That being said, I've been really impressed with how much broader Brannen's game has become.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 7 months ago

Graham's disruptive nature on defense is what KU has been missing for years now. I'm not sure if it's his enthusiasm that inspires others, the more-sustained presence of Hunter Mickelson in the paint, or just the collective maturity of this team's guards (probably a combination of all of the above), but this team is finally defending like the Bill Self teams of yore.

Kansas currently ranks 15th in the nation in steals per game at 8.4. To put that in perspective Kansas finished the previous three seasons no better than 110th in the nation and 7.0 spg.

When you couple this renaissance of disruptive D with KU's (also) newfound ability to limit turnovers (KU ranks 14th in the nation in A:TO) it becomes easy to see why KU is Kenpom's top team.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 7 months ago

Devonte had the defensive play of the day in my book. When Baylor was about to inbound the ball, he knocked it back into the hands of the inbounder, who was still out of bounds. That was a great heads-up play on his part.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 7 months ago

Excellent call, Bryce. That was a tremendous play.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 7 months ago

Road Map to Title 12:

1] Win all home games - 9-0..................................9-0. 2] Split two toughest road games, ISU & OU - 1-1...10-1. 3] Split four trap games, OSU,BU,TX,WV - 2-2........12-3. 4] Sweep the weak sisters, TT,TCU, KSU - 3-0........15-3.

.............................OR................................................

Just win all darn 18 of them!!!!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 7 months ago

Just have to love the comments today. Good combination of analysis and humor. I guess a 28 point blowout will do that to us. Let's hope there are a lot more games like this one.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 7 months ago

"He chose the perfect words to discuss that hot topic: 'We might as well be happy with it and know guys are going to be coming for us trying to get that No. 1 spot, and we’ve got to be humble and hungry and just keep going at it and grinding.'"

How great is that paragraph??? If that's not the perfect attitude for this team to have, I don't know what is.

Now let's hope we're all just as positive after Monday's game.

Janet Olin 3 years, 7 months ago

Baylor was a great win for the team; Hawks started hot and kept the 'pedal to the metal', something we have rarely seen. Easy for fans to dis Selden last year after so much hype for lack of focus or hops or whatever ( I was guilty there as well). Nice to know his knee is solid now (rebounds and jump shots are the proof), and I believe his family moving here has helped his mental growth, along with natural maturity and understanding what Coach wants. Also helps Coach is playing him to his strength now, which by Bill's own admission didn't happen last year. Things are looking up on offense and defense. Hope the 'boys' put on their 'big boy' underwear for the OU game at home Monday. Frank and Devonte have been fabulous, and this has taken enormous pressure off Ellis (who thinks too much) to be the "It" factor.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 7 months ago

Graham, inarguably, is the best complement to Frank. Tyshawn and team would've been the champ had we made the same move back then with EJ, Tharpe. The way Graham fires the J, and drives to the rim, shoots the 3s, makes simple passes, he clearly has what it takes to move this team deeper than FF.

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