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Posts tagged with Devonte' Graham

Remember Devonte’ Graham’s foul out vs. Villanova? Now, you make the call(s)

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham dives on a ball after losing it on one of the Jayhawks' final drives against Villanova during the second half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Graham was whistled for a foul on the play and the ball was awarded back to the Wildcats.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham dives on a ball after losing it on one of the Jayhawks' final drives against Villanova during the second half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Graham was whistled for a foul on the play and the ball was awarded back to the Wildcats. by Nick Krug

San Antonio — You probably remember the foul that knocked Devonte’ Graham out of the 2016 Elite Eight game between Kansas and Villanova.

It’s likely no one agonized over the play more, though, than Graham himself.

“You kind of feel like you let the team down,” Graham said. “For a couple weeks after that, that’s all you can think about.”

The fact of the matter is, the fifth foul might have been the fifth most controversial.

There’s long been a belief among some KU fans that Graham fouled out of that game without committing a single foul. Don’t believe me?

Here’s an example. Here’s another. And here and here and here and here and here and here.

“To be honest I don’t remember all five of ‘em,” Graham said. “Probably about three of them could’ve been questionable.”

Well, now you can decide for yourself.


Foul No. 1

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Why it was a foul: Graham was hounding Phil Booth all the way up the court and put his hands on him a couple times. When Graham finally swiped at the ball around Booth's back, he had to know he was putting himself in jeopardy of a call being made. It’s also possible he nicked Booth’s arm, and referees can have a stricter whistle in the early moments of a game to set some kind of a tone.

Why it wasn’t a foul: Because the play he got called for didn’t look anything like a foul. Graham knocked the ball away cleanly. At the top of the screen, Wayne Selden put both hands on his head in frustration. It's also worth noting the referee who called the foul didn't have a clean look at the play at all.


Foul No. 2

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Why it was a foul: This one is a little tough, since there isn’t a great angle, but you could argue Graham went through the left arm of Ryan Arcidiacono to get the ball. He might have also caught a little bit of his body, although it looks like Arcidiacono is actually the one holding off Graham.

Why it wasn’t a foul: There’s very little contact and it’s basically a loose ball at that point. Graham, again, reacts instantly to the call, and Frank Mason also throws his arms in frustration the second the call is made. Plus, the referee might have had a little extra leeway with Graham knowing he already picked up his first on what was at best a 50-50 call.


Foul No. 3

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Why it was a foul: Again, there’s nothing you can really see from this angle that would be helpful, but it’s possible Graham went through Jalen Brunson’s arm to knock the ball away. Slapping at a ball on a driving player is also dangerous for a player that already has two fouls. Graham put himself in a position where a call could easily be made.

Why it wasn’t a foul: From this angle, at least, the play looks pretty clean. Graham bats the ball off Brunson’s knee and it trickles to Jamari Traylor. Again, Mason reacts in frustration to the call, Graham’s third.


Foul No. 4

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Why it was a foul: Well, first of all, the officials could have called a foul on Landen Lucas, although it looks like Jalen Brunson shoved off the KU big man to accentuate the contact. But with Graham, there’s a bit of contact on the rebound and Darryl Reynolds (45) instantly grabs at his arm as if to say he got hit there. Plus, Graham had his hands on Reynolds' body at the beginning of the rebound.

Why it wasn’t a foul: You’ve seen far worse go uncalled, especially going for a rebound. Plus, it’s rare to see a smaller guard — Graham was listed at 6-2, 175 pounds — get called for a foul on a rebound against a significantly bigger player (6-8, 225 pounds) unless there’s pretty obvious contact.


Foul No. 5

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Why it was a foul: This is the famous — or infamous — fifth foul. And honestly, it’s probably a foul. Graham is going after the loose ball, which is his right, but he slides into Josh Hart and takes out his legs. Hart wasn’t moving other than to bend down and pick up the ball. There’s way too much contact for the whistle not to blow.

Why it wasn’t a foul: Referees typically grant leeway for players going after loose balls. Plus, late in games referees also tend to swallow their whistles — sometimes to the benefit of Kansas (a non-charge call against Iowa State comes to mind).


The verdict:

Graham probably shouldn’t have fouled out against Villanova, not that it matters now.

"It's over now," Graham agreed.

The most egregious call was probably the second foul, while the first and third may have simply come down to the situations Graham put himself in.

As for the fifth foul, since it’s the one everyone remembers the most, Saturday’s media sessions provided the chance for a pair of perspectives on the play.

First, then-freshman Mikal Bridges was the player who knocked the ball out of Graham’s hands to create the loose ball. He was actually credited with a steal in the box score — giving him five when it should have been four — and he still remembered the sequence quite well.

“Graham just split me and Arch,” Bridges recalled. And the ball was loose and I just dove on it. That’s what we do. I guess it rolled to Josh and Josh went to go pick it up and I guess Graham dove on it and got a foul.”

Graham’s thoughts were clear on the play, but a teammate chimed in and provided his own take, saying it’s “part of how we play.”

“I think with that play in particular, I mean that’s just him going hard for the ball. I don’t think anybody can get mad at him for doing that, showing some effort,” said Mitch Lightfoot, who wasn’t yet on KU at the time. “It’s the heat of the game, he dove for a ball, just kind of the call didn’t go his way. We wish it would’ve, but it didn’t. But he’s working his butt off so you can’t get upset with him.”

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How a ‘bad,’ ‘terrible’ play helped KU finish off Seton Hall

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

WICHITA — Svi Mykhailiuk is lucky to be alive.

OK, so that might be a slight exaggeration. But if you were only basing it off the look on Bill Self’s face when Mykhailiuk let go of a pass that was at best risky and probably closer to the “terrible” grade Self later applied to it, then the words of the senior after the game made a little more sense.

“Oh, he would’ve killed me,” joked Mykhailiuk after KU’s 83-79 win. “It was a bad, bad play.”

Here’s how it all happened.

Khadeen Carrington hit a deep 3-pointer to cut KU’s lead over Seton Hall to four with 29.4 seconds remaining. Seton Hall took a timeout.

Mykhailiuk ran the baseline and inbounded the ball to Lagerald Vick. Vick tapped it back to Mykhailiuk, who, without even first landing on the ground, threw a pass all the way down the floor to a streaking Devonte’ Graham.

“I saw Devonte’ open so I threw it to him,” said Mykhailiuk. “I did not think (the defender) was going to come steal the ball. I was nervous when I passed that.”

Desi Rodriguez, who was keeping an eye on Lightfoot down the floor, broke away from his man. He had a chance to grab the ball as it bounced right by the half-court line.

The ball should have been picked off. Even the announcer calling the game thought so.

“Back to Mykhailiuk, who threw it away!” exclaimed Brad Nessler, who then saw the ball bounce under Rodriguez’s hands and end up in Graham’s mitts.

“Almost!” he corrected.

(Check out the aftermath of the pass in the photo below. Look at Graham's facial expression and the surprise that's on it after he ended up with the ball. And be sure to note the pain on Rodriguez's face in the background. There's little doubting that the Seton Hall senior, just a split second earlier, thought he had the steal.)

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes away with a ball that was nearly stolen late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes away with a ball that was nearly stolen late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Back to the sequence, the nerves were free-flowing all around.

“Every ball has a chance to get picked off,” said Mitch Lightfoot, “but once the ball was a loose ball I was like, ‘Uh oh.’”

“We just got lucky on that one,” added Graham. “I had seen the defender like at the last second, so I just tried to hit the ball to myself. Thank God that it came, that it went through.”

Graham regained possession, took a pair of dribbles and shoveled the ball off to Lightfoot. The big man dunked it with two hands and let out a roar in the process.

The basket gave KU 77 points and put the Jayhawks up six. Carrington would hit another three, but there wasn’t enough time for the Pirates to keep trading baskets.

It would’ve been the game-winning score, in fact, if not for a meaningless — to some — 3-pointer with two seconds left to massage the final margin.

“You’ve got to make winning plays with the game on the line,” Graham said. “Coach stresses it a lot in practice and we just try to do it in the games.”

As for the other stress — that of Self’s potential reaction — Mykhailiuk’s teammates each laughed when told about Mykhailiuk’s comment.

At least one player, though, agreed with the Ukranian’s assertion.

“Not far from it,” Lightfoot joked. “Thank God it didn’t happen. Thank God we’re moving on.”

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1-3-1 breakdown: Three under-the-radar moments from KU-Texas II

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates for a dunk against the Texas defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates for a dunk against the Texas defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Since coming to the Big 12, Shaka Smart has yet to earn a win against Bill Self — like he did as the coach of VCU. Today's 1-3-1 blog explores the coaching matchup between the two, plus a play by Malik Newman that brought back memories of another five years ago. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.

Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.


Play of the game: Hit the deck! —

The Jayhawks were never really in danger of dropping Monday's game against Texas, yet they weren't able to put it entirely out of reach until late.

For that, every time Texas crawled to within six or eight — or some similar score — the Jayhawks had an answer. Some of them were louder than others.

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In a game where coach Bill Self praised the energy of Udoka Azubuike, it was exactly that on display to start the sequence. With the Jayhawks unable to secure the rebound initally, the 7-foot, 280-pound Delta, Nigeria native dove on the floor to grab a loose ball.

Azubuike kept his composure and flipped the ball to Newman, who brought it up the court to begin the weave. Azubuike, who was late down the court, eventually caught the ball at the top of the key, becoming part of the weave as he took a dribble to his right.

Azubuike handed the ball off to Newman, who was initially guarded by Kerwin Roach. Roach was screened by Azubuike and wasn't able to fight through it.

Perhaps he was expecting to switch since Texas defended the initial action between the guards by switching, but he almost certainly wouldn't have been supposed to switch onto Azubuike. Teams will often defend the weave by switching either 1-through-3 or 1-through-4, meaning they'll switch at every position except with the big men on the floor.

Newman pulled up from 3 and knocked down the shot. KU, which had seen its lead cut to six less than 90 seconds earlier, went back up by 11.

It was that kind of game.


A trend: Creating a mismatch —

Shaka Smart does something that absolutely baffles me.

When the other team has the ball out of bounds on the baseline, he sticks the tallest player on the inbounder, creating a mismatch from the jump.

In an early Twitter thread — recapped in the 1-3-1 blog from the OSU game — I dissected how KU took advantage of that mismatch on three separate occasions in Austin.

  • The first time Texas tried it, KU got a layup.
  • The second time. Graham isolated big man Mo Bamba and KU missed a shot, but Texas wasn’t able to initially secure a rebound.
  • The third time, Graham pulled Bamba away from the hoop, drove by him and drew a foul.

Point being, KU took advantage — over and over and over.

The rematch was no different.

On the first instance, Graham was guarded by 6-9, 240-pound Texas big man Jericho Sims. Graham passed the ball to the corner and Sims doubled, which forced Texas’ other big in the game to rotate onto Graham.

The action left the two Texas big men — and one guard — guarding KU’s two smallest players. It looked as though Matt Coleman, the guard, should've stayed on Newman with the two bigs dropping back down into the paint, but that would've left Sims on Graham, which would have been a total mismatch.

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Regardless, the end result was a wide-open Azubuike under the hoop. Clay Young found him with a perfect chest pass and the rest was easy.

Things went a little differently the second time, but the result was the same.

Graham inbounded the ball and pulled 6-10, 240-pound James Banks away from the basket. He isolated him on the right wing and settled for a long jumper.

Objectively, you’d have to say Texas won the exchange. But it wasn't over.

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Because Banks had to turn and chase the rebound from the perimeter, he wasn’t able to box anyone out or get into position to haul in the board. In the meantime, Lagerald Vick was matched up with a smaller Jacob Young.

Vick sidestepped Young and grabbed the board. He kicked the ball out to the perimeter to Graham, who swung it to Mykhailiuk. The Texas defense was already scrambling at that point, and it was nothing but target practice for a wide-open Mykhailiuk.

The crazy thing is, it wasn’t even the last time KU scored off the Smart-inbound-defending strategy…

… in the first 10 minutes of the game.

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On the third instance, Graham pulled 6-9, 245-pound Dylan Osetkowski away from the hoop by simply running to the 3-point line. Osetkowski initially pointed for someone else to take Graham, but with no one in position to do so, he had to guard the KU senior.

Graham noticed the mismatch and called for an isolation.

Note how he waves away the potential Azubuike screen.

He blew by Osetkowski off the bounce, which forced Sims to help. Graham dropped the ball off to Azubuike, who collected it and threw down a dunk.

You'd think at some point the Longhorns might try something a little different. Maybe in the Big 12 tournament.


One that stood out: Ring a bell? —

It’d be difficult to imagine a more salivating opportunity for a guard.

Malik Newman caught the ball in the right corner with a Texas big closing out on him. Newman had to know that there was no chance of the defender staying with him if he put the ball on the floor, meaning he was essentially a dribble away from getting to throw down an emphatic slam.

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If you’re like me, the dunk made you think of one from about five years ago.

Late in the first half of a 2013 revenge game against TCU, Ben McLemore caught the ball on the wing. There was a TCU player closing out to him, but he had no chance to actually get a stop.

McLemore took two dribbles and exploded to the rim for a dunk. The basket gave him 11 points on the game. At that point, TCU had only nine, but I digress.

None by Scott Chasen

I didn’t just bring up that play to talk about the history. Rather, it felt worth noting how KU was able to get such an easy opportunity in the first place.

Off the Texas miss, Mitch Lightfoot executed on a boxout and Graham rebounded the ball. The sequence was similar to a strategy employed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, where the big men would leave rebounds for Russell Westbrook, so he could start the break the other way upon catching the ball.

That wasn’t always the case for KU this year.

After the Iowa State game in Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season, I wrote about a sequence in which Newman actually boxed out an opposing big man so Azubuike could get an easy rebound. That didn't allow KU to break, since there were three KU players standing 90 feet from the hoop by the time Azubuike passed the ball ahead.

But this time, with Lightfoot doing the hard work, Graham was able to get the board and start the break immediately. That left the defense scrambling and set Newman up with the easiest two points of his career.

Perhaps the flashiest, too.


1-3-1 breakdown: KU 74, Tech 72

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 104, OU 74

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 77, WVU 69

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 83, ISU 77

1-3-1 breakdown: Baylor 80, KU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 71, TCU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: OSU 84, KU 79

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, K-State 56

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 79, TAMU 68

1-3-1 breakdown: OU 85, KU 80

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67

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1-3-1 breakdown: Three under-the-radar moments from KU-TTU II

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) talks with Kansas head coach Bill Self during a break in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) talks with Kansas head coach Bill Self during a break in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena. by Nick Krug

Devonte' Graham absolutely took over down in Lubbock. Today's 1-3-1 blog shows just how the senior did it — on both ends — as the Jayhawks clinched a record-setting 14th straight Big 12 title. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.

Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.


Play of the game: Break the tie —

Devonte’ Graham hit dagger after dagger in his quest to help the Jayhawks defeat Texas Tech.

With about eight minutes left, Graham hit some kind of a Marcus-Denmon-in-Allen-Fieldhouse-only-it-went-in 3-pointer. With less than 40 seconds left, he pulled off an improbable finish at the rim to put KU up two scores.

(Keep reading, because you’re going to see both of those plays.)

But it was another shot, a simple isolation pull-up jumper that KU needed — NEEDED — more than any other.

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KU led by eight with four-and-a-half minutes left. The Red Raiders then went on a 7-0 run in less than 90 seconds to cut the deficit to one. Thirty seconds after that, the game was tied. KU called timeout.

Out of the huddle, the ball went into the hands of Svi Mykhailiuk. He fired off a 3-pointer from the left wing late in the shot clock, and it missed. Mykhailiuk got his own miss — a worthy candidate for play of the game, too — and reset the offense.

KU’s next shot went to Graham. The senior cut to the hoop and went up for a two-handed layup. The shot was erased by Tech’s Zhaire Smith. Just 18 seconds on the shot clock remained.

Graham went and got the ball and then he dribbled — and dribbled and dribbled and dribbled some more.

Finally, with the clock down to seven seconds, he made his move. He crossed over at the top of the key and shook off Zach Smith. He pulled up for two and knocked down the shot that broke the tie.

You can’t win the game if you don’t take the lead.


A trend: #BIDG? —

I’ll admit, when the hashtag #BIDG appeared in my mentions I rolled my eyes. Some things — like the anthem that belonged to 2017 national player of the year Frank Mason — should probably stay with the player they were intended for.

None by David F

But for at least the second half of Saturday’s game, Devonte’ Graham was Frank Mason. He put KU on his back — on both ends — and would not let his team lose.

Let’s go to the film.

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This play was almost identical to the first part of one made by Mason last year — save for a broken chair or two.

Against K-State in his senior season, Mason made a save while diving out of bounds. He crashed into press row but was able to fling the ball in bounds and eventually come up with a steal on a play that KU coach Bill Self later described as season-defining.

The Graham version didn’t have the steal at the end, but it had just about everything else.

Niem Stevenson passed the ball to Norense Odiase, who had his back to the basket. Graham rotated from the weak side to help in the post. He knocked the ball away and then chased after it, lunging toward the sideline and flinging it back over his head as his momentum carried him out of bounds.

Zach Smith picked off the heave, but he was pressured instantly by Marcus Garrett. Smith tried to drop it off to Keenan Evans but Svi Mykhailiuk read the play and got into the passing lanes before sprinting down the court to draw a foul.

If that sequence didn’t make you think of a Mason-sparked run, though, it was hard to think of anything else on a play Graham made late in the contest — even if it involved a bit of luck.

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With the Jayhawks up two and less than a minute to play, a bucket wouldn’t quite seal the game, but it would start to make 14 straight feel a whole lot closer.

Graham dribbled at the top of the key to take valuable seconds off the clock for the Red Raiders. He crossed over on Jarrett Culver and began his drive to the rim with about seven on the shot clock once again.

As he drove, Graham carried the ball like a running back. He had the ball knocked down from his hands but he quickly regained control and launched up a prayer of a shot from his hip.

“That layup he made late was probably better lucky than good,” Self said.

For what it’s worth, Graham, a mere 44.2 percent finisher at the rim this season, agreed.

“The layup, it was a crazy wild layup,” Graham said. “That was definitely luck to go in.”

His next play? Not so much.

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Immediately following the Graham layup, the Jayhawks sprinted back down the floor on defense. They set up in a 2-3 zone and needed a stop to seal the win.

Evans dribbled the ball up the court and then passed it off to Culver. As he did so, Graham fought through a screen and helped swarm the Texas Tech guard, poking the ball away to create a chance at a turnover.

Culver, a freshman, stayed on his feet while trying to pick up the ball. Graham, a senior, dove onto the court and knocked it away to Lagerald Vick.

It was a final reminder of Mason, who made plays on the defensive end over and over at game point throughout his KU career. Most notably, the former Jayhawk came up with a clutch steal in the World University Games championship round against Germany and did so again in the triple-overtime thriller against Oklahoma, poking the ball away from Buddy Hield while guarding the inbounds pass.


One that stood out: A role reversal —

Take a deep breath, KU fans.

I’m about to compare a shot by Graham to one of a Missouri player — a player who might have been the biggest reason for KU’s final loss to the Tigers.

There’s good news, though. The Missouri player missed the shot I’m talking about and it was in a game that KU won in Lawrence, not the one in Columbia.

None by Scott Chasen

Marcus Denmon could have buried the Jayhawks on Missouri’s way out of the Big 12. Up by three with less than 35 seconds left in Allen Fieldhouse, the guard dribbled against Travis Releford and launched a high-arching 3-pointer to beat the shot clock.

Denmon’s shot hit both sides of the rim and just narrowly missed. Thomas Robinson hauled in the board. The rest was history.

When Graham pulled up for a 3-pointer with eight-and-a-half minutes left, that was exactly the shot on my mind.

Only Graham made his.

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With the shot clock winding down and Vick aimlessly dribbling on the perimeter, Graham backed up to half court to receive the ball. Vick’s pass was deflected, giving Graham all of four seconds and 40 feet to the basket to traverse to make a play.

He didn’t disappoint.

Graham took one dribble with his left hand and pulled up while fading to his right. The shot swished through the net. And Graham was just getting started.


1-3-1 breakdown: KU 104, OU 74

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 77, WVU 69

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 83, ISU 77

1-3-1 breakdown: Baylor 80, KU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 71, TCU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: OSU 84, KU 79

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, K-State 56

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 79, TAMU 68

1-3-1 breakdown: OU 85, KU 80

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67

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1-3-1 breakdown: Three under-the-radar moments from KU-OU II

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) celebrates a three during the first half, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) celebrates a three during the first half, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas shot 16 for 29 from 3 against Oklahoma. Crazy thing is, the Jayhawks probably should've made even more. Today’s 1-3-1 blog takes you through the Sooners’ defensive lapses, several of which were caused by freshman sensation Trae Young. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.

Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.


Play of the game: The first one, no less —

It’s hard to find a singular play of the game in a 30-point blowout. Yet no play proved more indicative of the final result than the first one.

Literally, the first one.

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On KU’s first offensive possession — and for the entire game — the OU guards were switching on defense, not unlike what KU does. As Devonte’ Graham came around a screen from Svi Mykhailiuk, Christian James switched off with Kristian Doolittle.

Mykhailiuk popped around a Udoka Azubuike screen and James was slow reacting. He faded all the way to the right side of the free throw line before trying to sprint out to contest the shot, with no clear path to do so.

The shot itself rolled in and out, but it was promising for the Jayhawks to get such a wide-open look on their very first play.

Sixteen 3-pointers later, the performance was less promising and more of a bloodbath.


A trend: Why so many? —

OU’s defense wasn’t limited to a single or even a single group of gaffes.

So it almost feels crazy to say, but, in a game the Jayhawks shot a blistering 16 for 29 from 3, I’d tell you they should’ve made more — a lot more.

Let’s go to the film.

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The first play I’ve tagged, coming just over four minutes into the game, actually showed a pretty heady play by Graham.

On the first part of the play you can see Graham, on the wing, looking at the ball. He saw the OU defense react to Malik Newman’s drive. Kameron McGusty was guarding Newman and James came off Mykhailiuk by a few steps to help.

Now it was Graham's turn to step into Mykhailiuk's shoes.

Knowing how the OU defense would play the drive, this time from Mykhailiuk, Graham positioned himself back a few feet of the 3-point line. It's a very valid strategy, and one employed by one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA: the Houston Rockets.

Here's the synopsis: Want an open 3-point look? Take a step back.

So when Mykhaliliuk took his turn driving — and James went to help — Graham was wide open from about 24 feet.

Nothing but net.

The second play was a lot simpler. It was a breakdown the Sooners were guilty of all night, yet for whatever reason didn’t work to correct.

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Halfway through the shot clock Lagerald Vick dribbled to his left and came off a screen by Azubuike. It was a fairly broken play, evident by the visible confusion of Azubuike at the beginning of the play, who gestured as if to ask, “What’s going on?”

Vick went past the screen, yet for some reason Rashard Odomes decided to go under it.

That would have been the correct way to defend it had the ball handler been someone like Marcus Garrett (26.5 percent on 3s), but it certainly wasn’t for Vick, a 37.5 percent 3-point shooter entering the day.

Vick, of course, knocked down the jumper in rhythm.

The final play had a similar element, but really it was just one of laziness.

The Jayhawks targeted Trae Young’s defense in Norman and for good reason. With the load he carries on offense, it would be impossible for him to compete at an extremely high level consistently on the other end.

Mykhailiuk took Young off the dribble early, getting to the basket for an easy layup in the opening minutes of the game. But Young, who was responsible for KU baskets on several possessions, did no worse job defending than on a possession midway through the first half.

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Graham caught a pass from Mykhailiuk and took a dribble to his right. Mitch Lightfoot came out to set a screen, meaning Young should’ve attempted to try to go over it to keep the guard from getting a wide-open shot — similar to the Vick play.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t even look like Lightfoot thought he’d have a chance to screen Young.

Before Young even tried to get around Lightfoot, the KU big man had broken from his screen and was rolling toward the hoop. The action, which can be referred to as a slip screen, ended up entirely removing Young from the play. Young inexplicably went under where the screen would have been and got caught up on Lightfoot's body.

Graham picked up his dribble, paused for a full second and put up the shot. He missed the shot — KU did miss 13 3s on the day — but the Jayhawks got the rebound back.

Would it shock you if I told you they hit a 3 on the ensuing possession?


One that stood out: Gotta get back —

Everyone knows a college basketball court is 94 feet long. A quick Google search reveals it’s also about 50 feet wide.

Case in point, it’s easier to get across one way than it is the other, especially when the other guy isn't running very hard.

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Less than four minutes into the game, Young had a fast-break layup attempt contested by Mykhailiuk and missed. Azubuike got the rebound and threw the ball ahead to Newman.

Young fell down under the hoop and was slow getting back down the court. That left KU with a five-on-four advantage. The play was pretty simple.

With Young jogging back behind Azubuike and stopping at the top of the key, he essentially put himself on Mykhailiuk, who James was already guarding. He pointed back toward the hoop to signal for someone to pick up Vick, but it was already too late.

On the play, each of the Sooners had to make a decision:

  • McGusty had to choose between Graham and Vick. He chose Graham, probably the right call.
  • James had to guard Mykhailiuk.
  • Jamuni McNeace, OU’s lone big, waited for Azubuike, who would've otherwise had an uncontested dunk.
  • Doolittle stopped the ball, picking up Newman.

That meant Vick could traverse a majority of the 50 feet on the baseline and still catch the ball, turn around and have a wide-open path to the hoop.

Oh, and the basket capped off a 10-0 start for the Jayhawks, who would still outscore the Sooners by 20 more from that point on.


1-3-1 breakdown: KU 77, WVU 69

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 83, ISU 77

1-3-1 breakdown: Baylor 80, KU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 71, TCU 64

1-3-1 breakdown: OSU 84, KU 79

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, K-State 56

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 79, TAMU 68

1-3-1 breakdown: OU 85, KU 80

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67

Reply 3 comments from RJ King Scott Chasen Plasticjhawk

1-3-1 breakdown: Three under-the-radar moments from KU-TAMU

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) tries to shrug off Texas A&M center Tyler Davis (34) on his way to the bucket during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) tries to shrug off Texas A&M center Tyler Davis (34) on his way to the bucket during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The 1-3-1 breakdown from KU’s 79-68 win over Texas A&M features a Bill Self-style player making a Bill Self-style play, an analysis of one slumping player and a highlight from one of KU’s most consistent guards. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.

Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.


Play of the game: He does what he does —

While the Jayhawks played most of Saturday's game comfortably in front of the Aggies, it wasn’t until a play with about 2-and-a-half minutes left that the game felt truly over.

With 2:45 to play and the Jayhawks up 11, Svi Mykhailiuk pulled up for 3 but missed. Udoka Azubuike tapped the rebound away to Marcus Garrett, who reset the possession with a pass out to the top of the key.

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KU coach Bill Self has praised Garrett for his ability to steal extra possessions, a trait that was on display on this play. However, one thing aiding Garrett in crashing the glass was something that has actually hurt the KU offense when he’s been in games this year.

Despite hitting a 3-point shot earlier in the game, Garrett was practically unguarded as he ran from corner to corner. The Aggies had two big men in the game, but 6-10 forward Robert Williams opted to stay in the paint instead of following Garrett to the perimeter, leaving the KU freshman with a free run to the hoop on the offensive glass.

If Williams had kept sight of Garrett, he might have been able to seal him off and haul in the rebound when Azubuike poked the ball away. Williams might have even been able to discourage Garrett from going for the rebound in the first place.

Instead, Garrett ran to the rim, hauled in the board and, rather than going right back up, passed the ball out to Malik Newman. Newman scored to put KU up 13, effectively ending the game in a sequence that certainly factored into Self’s comments after the game.

"Thought he was, other than Svi, the best player in the game," Self said of Garrett, who also finished with nine points on 4-for-4 shooting. "I thought he played great. Best game he's had in a long time."


A trend: Disappearing act —

Few would’ve predicted the recent slump of Lagerald Vick after non-conference play. Vick, who opened his season with a 23-point outburst against Tennessee State, crossed the 20-point threshold five times in non-conference play — and once more in the Big 12 opener — showing impressive growth after a season in which he did so only once.

However, since the Big 12 opener against Texas, Vick has been in a massive slide. Self has had conversations telling his wing he needs to do more, something that hasn’t yet materialized in games.

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Vick, averaging 7.0 points over his last eight games after averaging more than 17 over his first 13, received a pass from Devonte’ Graham around the free throw line.

Like the game against Washington, when Vick was left open over and over by design of the Huskies' zone, he had plenty of room to operate and put up a floater.

No Aggies contested the shot, yet at the last minute, Vick attempted to thread a pass to Silvio De Sousa, who was completely caught off guard by the move.

Watching from the sideline, Self barked over at the junior.

“Hey Lagerald,” he said, “Shoot it.”

The next possession, that's exactly what Vick did.

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This time, Vick received a bounce pass from Mykhailiuk and turned and shot right away.

That aggressiveness was more of what Self wanted to see, but Vick actually had Newman wide open on the right wing. And if he had held the ball just a second more, Graham was sprinting to the right corner, meaning one of either Newman or Graham could’ve gotten off a wide-open 3-pointer.

Still, the one thing Vick did well on the play was that he didn’t hesitate. Self was unhappy that Vick didn’t drive later in the game when he had mismatches against the Aggies' bigs, but there may have been even bigger problems at work.

When Newman was slumping earlier in the season, Self spoke on several occasions about how he was overthinking things on the offensive end, sometimes leading to hesitancy and other times poor decision-making.

It’s tough to watch the following play and see anything other than a player going through something similar.

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With the Aggies not matching up in transition, Newman was able to float a pass to Vick on the wing. Savion Flagg attempted to intercept the ball but missed, leaving Vick wide open for a 3-pointer.

Rather than taking an escape dribble — one dribble to his right to fully clear the defender — and pulling up, Vick used the first bounce as if it were a hesitation dribble, allowing the defense to react and rotate as he took one more step forward.

(Note how Jay Jay Chandler — No. 0 — rotated onto Azubuike, allowing Aggies forward Tyler Davis to rotate out to Vick.)

The swingman ultimately made his own shot more difficult, having to settle for a contested jumper over the long arms of the 6-10 Davis.

KU actually got the rebound on the air ball and scored later on the possession, but that wasn't the point. Instead, Vick was caught in between taking a 3-pointer and driving the rim, almost as if he were thinking about what the right play to make would be vs. simply making the right one.

Vick finished with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 31 minutes.

"I thought he was better," Self said, "but I don't think he put his handprint on the game."


One that stood out: Just like a quarterback —

It’s a pretty simple principle of basketball: If one player is doubled, somebody is open.

It may not be the best option — such as a poor shooter in an uncomfortable area — but sometimes it's exactly the opposite, a nightmare for the defense.

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After gaining control of the ball in the backcourt, Graham dribbled to the top of the arc, where he was almost instantly doubled.

Immediately Vick flashed open, but the 7-foot Azubuike running by Graham actually blocked his sight from that option.

Just like a good quarterback, Graham stayed calm under pressure and went through his progressions. On the replay you can almost see his eyes bounce from Vick to Azubuike out to Mykhailiuk at the 3-point line.

Graham pump faked to Vick to force the defense to commit. He then floated the ball out to Mykhailiuk, who took care of the rest.

“Obviously it wasn't really good in the first half," said Aggies coach Billy Kennedy of the team's 3-point defense. "It just seemed like every bounce, every play, they made it. That's the mark of a really good team."


1-3-1 breakdown: Oklahoma 85, KU 80

1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67

Reply 3 comments from Dirk Medema Surrealku Jerry Walker

1-3-1 breakdown: Three under-the-radar moments from KU-Oklahoma

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) come together for a talk during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) come together for a talk during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Make no mistake — close games are seldom decided by only one play, player or sequence.

Yes, Udoka Azubuike went 1 for 8 at the line, but the Jayhawks could’ve scored in other ways.

KU missed 22 3-pointers — one or two of those might’ve changed the situation entirely — while Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham shot a combined 15 for 44 (34.1 percent) from the field.

But once a close game gets to its final stages, every mistake is amplified, including one made by KU’s leader against the Sooners.

Devonte’ Graham was matched up on Trae Young for Oklahoma’s final possession of the 85-80 KU loss. Graham had done a decent job on Young, holding him to single-digit field-goal attempts for the first time this season and likely the first time in multiple years. (Young averaged better than 40 points per game in high school.)

So then it made sense for there to be extra attention on Young as Brady Manek came up to set a screen. But what happened was a lapse KU could not afford.

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"The last one was on me," Graham said, admitting he and Svi Mykhailiuk were supposed to switch on the play.

Manek's screen was never set, as Mykhailiuk tipped his hand a little early and the OU forward sprung out behind the 3-point line, but KU had the right players in place to defend the play.

Mykhailiuk and Graham are more than familiar with each other, having played four years together and sharing a tight bond off the court.

It didn’t help them on Tuesday.

“We should’ve had the ball with a chance to tie or win,” Self said. “This happens a lot of time in sports. You know what you're supposed to do, but you think you can guard Trae better than the guy that you'd be switching with. And so you stay."

"That was a situation where they slipped the ball screen and obviously we didn't do a good job. ... And he's a great shooter."

---

'Hack-a-Dok'

So much of Tuesday’s game was centered on the strategy of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger to have his team intentionally foul KU’s Udoka Azubuike, but various things around and during that time also went under the radar.

For example, if Self had deviated from his normal strategy, or if the referees had chosen to call a foul earlier in the game, Azubuike would’ve never been in that situation in the first place.

Kruger, who told his team to foul with about 3 minutes left, almost didn’t have to worry about the big man. Azubuike committed two fouls in the first half and was subsequently pulled, playing only five minutes.

Then he picked up two more — and nearly one on top of that — which might have revealed a way Self could get around the free throw issues altogether.

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Azubuike crashed into Young chasing after an offensive rebound. The fans in Norman wanted a foul, but with Young having the ball and remaining upright, it probably was best for both teams if play continued.

Had Azubuike picked up a foul there and had Self stuck with him until he fouled out, the situation itself would’ve been avoided. That isn’t to say Self made a mistake in subbing in the first half to preserve his big man, but it certainly wasn’t the only time a foul call affected a strategy.

Moving into the actual intentional-foul part of the game, which started with KU up 2, Kruger tasked forward Matt Freeman with committing the fouls on Azubuike.

Freeman entered the game with 0 fouls, so there should have been five instances when Azubuike was at the line.

Instead, there were four. Here’s why:

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Freeman stuck his shoulder out into Graham, and the KU guard did a good job selling the play. It took one of the five fouls from Freeman, and since Khadeem Lattin already had three fouls at that point, it meant one less possession where the Sooners would intentionally foul.

KU, though, didn’t seem so sure.

With the Jayhawks ahead by 1 after Azubuike’s final free throws and Young committing a turnover to give KU the ball back, Self pointed for Azubuike to go to the corner and then called a timeout.

KU came back out of the timeout and Self stuck with the alignment, opting to put Lagerald Vick in front of Azubuike to offer some protection in case someone tried to intentionally foul.

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Kruger, though, was well prepared.

While Graham dribbled aimlessly, Kruger gestured for his players to sag off Vick and Azubuike, leaving nowhere for Graham — or anyone else — to drive.

Graham hoisted up a 3-pointer that missed. OU came back down the court and took the lead.

---

And on the other side

Since I began this story by talking about the defensive lapse by Graham, I think it’d only be fair to end on the play that preceded it.

After all, one play does not a game make.

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With KU down 2 and Malik Newman with the ball, Young tried to go around an Azubuike screen, giving Newman an extra step as he drove toward the hoop.

The defense collapsed and Newman made the right play, dishing it to a wide open Mykhailiuik. The shot just didn't fall, and Newman couldn’t come up with the board.

Sometimes, that's the difference between a win and a loss.

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Nick Rushton

How ‘bad offense’ earned Devonte’ Graham a compliment and a fan

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) goes to the bucket and is fouled hard by TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) goes to the bucket and is fouled hard by TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena. by Nick Krug

FORT WORTH, Texas — Before leaving Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth-native Clayton Orlie, 14, needed to pass along his message.

Waiting in lower bowl of the cozy venue, Orlie and his friend and fellow area-native Connor Hadley were able to get the attention of Devonte’ Graham and pose for a picture with the KU guard despite the TCU attire Hadley sported.

As Graham walked away, heading back into the tunnel after the Jayhawks’ 88-84 road win over the Horned Frogs, Orlie shouted out to him.

“Say hi to Frank Mason for me,” yelled Orlie, before dropping his voice to a whisper. “I love Frank Mason.”

The message didn't come from nowhere.

Last season, Orlie was able to make the trip out to Allen Fieldhouse for his birthday. He said his father, who attended college near KU, told him he just had to take in the experience.

Orlie, who says his favorite teams are KU and TCU, was paying attention, not only the season before, but to the current one as well.

“Lately, he’s been playing a lot more like Frank Mason,” Orlie said of Graham. “Frank did that his senior year.”

What Orlie and his friend saw in Graham is exactly what the senior has been trying to work on.

While Graham has shown the ability to play with the ball in his hands in the past, too often he’s only been a threat to score from the perimeter.

Graham, a 44-percent 3-point shooter two of the last three seasons, has had 11 career outings where all his field goal attempts have been 3-pointers. He’s played 20 career games where all his made field goals have been 3s, 10 of which came in his junior season.

While there’s nothing wrong with that model for a complementary piece, as a point guard logging heavy minutes, Graham has looked for a change.

“I’m trying to (drive more),” Graham said. “That’s really what I’ve been focusing on, just trying to get in the paint, get to the foul line, get easy baskets and make plays for others.”

The foul-line part of that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

In the seven games from Graham's sophomore season to now where all his field goal attempts were 3s, he shot a combined 13 free throws. In two of them, both coming last season, he got to the line 0 times.

Conversely, Mason had 0 games from his sophomore to junior seasons where he failed to log a 2-point attempt. As a senior, Mason averaged 6.6 free throw attempts per game, compared to 3.4 attempts by Graham going into the game against Texas Tech.

That was where the change began.

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Against the Red Raiders, Graham went 13 for 13 from the line. He was more aggressive driving the ball in the second half, and his coach wanted to see more, even if the way he described Graham's play wasn't the most appealing.

In the post-game press conference, Bill Self referred to the concept of "bad offense," speaking not to the quality of the results of each possession, but to the idea that those sequences involved only one player putting his head down and getting to the rim.

In that aspect, the "bad offense" was anything but that.

“He did great. He did great driving the ball,” Self said. “The thing that Devonte' did really good, and I think you cited the second half, are things he needs to do the entire game."

Message received.

Against TCU, Graham shot 15 free throws and made 13. He attempted five in the first half, more than he’d taken in nine of the Jayhawks 14 previous contests.

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(Now, three of those foul shots were the result of Graham being fouled on a jumper, but there were other instances, both in transition and in the half court, where Graham made an effort to get into the lane.)

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Ultimately, a pair of TCU intentional fouls helped inflate Graham’s game totals, but it wasn’t by chance he was the one holding the ball late.

“I feel like, if anything, the ball should be in my hands to make plays down the stretch,” Graham said. “And I was getting fouled and definitely wanted to be the one at the free throw line to try to ice the game.”

Other fouls, though, Graham earned — bruises and all.

With just over two minutes left, Graham poked the ball away from a TCU guard and sprinted the length of the court. He was crashed into as he attempted a layup and fell to the ground.

The thud of Graham hitting the court was audible all the way across the arena.

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“I just landed on my butt wrong,” Graham deadpanned.

After a beat, Graham got up and knocked down two free throws.

The toughness impressed his coach — “To me, Devonte’ just willed us to win,” Self said after the game, “he showed some (guts) tonight. Good God, he was good.” — and it even won over a new fan.

“I don’t watch a lot of Kansas, but I know about Kansas,” Hadley said. “Tell if I’m wrong on this, (but) since Frank Mason left, it looks like he’s stepped up as a leader — not only on the court, but as a person, making sure he got those dimes to all those people, crashing in with all those close free throws at the end to help secure the dub.”

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Dirk Medema