In one of the more surprising developments of the first few weeks of the Kansas basketball season, senior guard Devonte’ Graham went the first five games without reaching 20 points in any of the No. 2 Jayhawks’ victories.
The veteran from Raleigh, N.C., eclipsed that mark in the first half Tuesday night, though, as Graham’s hand looked hotter than any of those belonging to his teammates — even though KU shot 59 percent from the floor and throttled Toledo, 96-58, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Graham produced 23 of his game-high and college career-best 35 points in the first half, when he connected on 75 percent of his shots and the rest of the team kept pace, going 24-for-32.
Between Graham’s 5-for-8 accuracy from beyond the 3-point arc and fellow senior Svi Mykhailiuk’s 5-for-6 night from deep, Kansas (6-0) easily ran away from the Rockets, who only shot 40 percent from the floor in defeat.
Mykhailiuk finished with 15 points, four rebonds and two assists. Sophomore guard Malik Newman added 15 points and four boards. Second-year center Udoka Azubuike shot 6-for-9, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds — two fewer than freshman Marcus Garrett’s team-high seven off the bench.
View a gallery of images from Tuesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Rockets at Allen Fieldhouse.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Kansas seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half.
Though an early string of Rockets 3-pointers kept the game tight in the opening minutes, it wasn’t going to last once Toledo began regularly giving the ball away and failing to make KU’s offense sweat.
The Jayhawks found an uncanny rhythm in the final 12 minutes before halftime. Newman and backup big Mitch Lightfoot worked a pick-and-pop. Mykhailiuk drained four of five 3-pointers, including an off-balance, rushed look to beat the first-half buzzer. Graham scored from all over the floor, putting up 23 in 20 minutes, without a turnover.
Basically, whatever shot KU wanted, it got. And made. The Jayhawks entered the locker room having connected on 75 percent of their attempts, enabling them to cruise to a 59-30 lead at intermission.
• Offensive highlight: In the opening minutes the Jayhawks couldn’t get big man Azubuike involved down low like they hoped. The first possession of the game, Azubuike caught the ball on the left block as intended but earned a whistle for an offensive foul while trying to back his defender into the paint.
The next time down the floor, KU made a point to go right back to their biggest of bigs but a little jump-hook inside wouldn’t drop for the sophomore 7-footer from Nigeria.
Azubuike checked out before the first media timeout 0-for-2 from the floor. But once he returned, the Jayhawks recalled how much easier it is to get the center the ball when you just throw it up near the rim and let him go throw it down.
A screen-and-roll with Graham allowed the massive post player to slam home an alley-oop for his first basket nearly 12 minutes in.
The very next possession, Mykhailiuk followed Graham’s lead as an unclogged lane gave Azubuike plenty of room to head skyward and finish another lob pass perfectly.
The high-percentage looks doubled as the first two buckets of a 20-0 run that officially knocked Toledo out of the game.
• Defensive highlight: KU played at such a high level offensively, it didn’t need much of anything spectacular on the defensive end of the floor in terms of crowd-pleasing swats or diving steals that resulted in floor burns.
A 14-turnover first half for the Rockets (3-3), though, included five KU steals. A couple by the freshman who always seems to impress coach Bill Self with his defense, Garrett, fueled easy baskets as Kansas buried Toledo before halftime.
One Garrett swipe led to a fast-break layup for Newman. Another came 14 seconds later, and the freshman tossed it ahead to Graham for a 3-pointer and a 45-17 lead.
• Key stat: Points off turnovers. Toledo gave the basketball away often and the Jayhawks made sure to capitalize.
By the end of the latest KU blowout, the Rockets turned it over 20 times, gifting the heavily-favored home team 32 points as a result.
• Up next: The Jayhawks head to Miami, for a non-conference showdown with Syracuse (6-0), at American Airlines Arena.