San Antonio — Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham, at the Final Four for the first time, said the Jayhawks are excited to be at The Alamodome, but they realize they are at this showcase to take care of business.
As KU’s players have prepared for Saturday’s semifinal versus Villanova, a focus has been on the Wildcats’ ability to beat opponents with their 3-point shooting.
“I feel like it’ll be kind of like a shootout,” Graham said of the upcoming semifinal. “But they’ve got a lot of good shooters, and that’s why they shoot more. But so do we. They play around the arc just like we do, but they can also play inside. And their 5-man shoots it, as well.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Malik Newman noticed a change in the Jayhawks after they took a 20-point lead over Clemson.
“We kind of relaxed,” Newman said after KU’s 80-76 win. “We stopped being as aggressive.”
While the Jayhawks allowed the deficit to slowly get cut down to four, they managed to outlast the Tigers, thanks in part to a key play by Devonte’ Graham.
While the senior didn’t have his best game, shooting just 4 for 12 and committing three turnovers, Newman noted there were other things he did in the win.
“He’s a winner. He’s a winner,” Newman said. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s in his DNA.”
The top-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest region, Kansas fell behind by 10 points in the first half versus No. 16 seed Penn Thursday before recovering for a 76-60 victory at Intrust Bank Arena.
Jayhawks senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, who scored a game-best 29 points, credited the upset-minded Quakers for attacking KU early, and taking a 21-11 lead.
“It was more what they were doing. They came out running their offense well and it’s hard to guard when you’re trying to play up and pressure but you’re worried about the backdoor. And then they might come up and fake it one way and come off a down-screen and the next thing you know they’ve got a wide-open jump shot,” Graham said, referring to Penn’s 4-for-7 start on 3-pointers.
“They was releasing the ball so quick it was hard to get to them, and then they was knocking down shots,” Graham added. “So we just had to come out and settle down after the first 10 minutes and lock in.”
Wichita — Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, preparing to appear in his fourth and final NCAA Tournament, said the top-seeded Jayhawks don’t have to put any extra pressure on themselves just because their opponent, No. 16 seed Penn, can play with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“Pressure, you know, we’ve been through pressure all season,” Graham said Wednesday at Intrust Bank Arena, the day before KU’s first-round matchup with the Quakers.
“With the 14 straight (Big 12 regular-season titles), I feel like that was the most pressure I feel like any team could have been through,” Graham offered. “Us going through that pressure up to now, we shouldn’t feel pressure. We should just feel free and play loosely.”
According to Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, his teammates Malik Newman and Silvio De Sousa couldn’t have picked a better time than this weekend to experience breakthroughs.
Following the Jayhawks’ 81-70 victory over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament championship game, during which Newman scored 20 points and De Sousa provided 16 points and 10 rebounds, Graham said they give the Jayhawks a new element just in time for the NCAA Tournament.
“Now on the scouting report it’s not just going to be me, Svi (Mykhailiuk) and Udoka (Azubuike),” Graham said of the preparation awaiting KU’s upcoming postseason opponents. “When you’ve got five guys out there that can be in attack mode it’s hard to guard that. It’s perfect timing and the perfect time for them to get hot.”
Kansas City, Mo. — In two games playing without injured center Udoka Azubuike, Kansas starting shooting guard Malik Newman has experienced an offensive uptick.
Newman followed a 30-point game against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals with 22 more versus Kansas State in the semis.
Fellow starting guard Devonte’ Graham said Newman has given the Jayhawks a much-needed offensive boost.
“I really don’t think it got nothing to do with Dok being out,” Graham said, “but I think it’s just him making shots. We’re putting him in a position just to make plays and he’s having that confidence and letting it fly.”
Newman shot 8 for 14 against K-State in an 83-67 win, after making 11 of 15 versus the Cowboys.
Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham says while the Jayhawks feel bad for starting center Udoka Azubuike, who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Tuesday, they are prepared to tackle this weekend’s Big 12 tournament without the 7-footer.
Azubuike’s setback, which is expected to keep him sidelined at least until next week, opens the door for Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa to see more playing time in Kansas City, Mo., before Azubuike’s knee is reevaluated on Sunday.
“It should increase his confidence,” Graham said of the unexpected opportunity for De Sousa, “because he knows he’s gonna get in and he’s not worried about if he’s gonna play or not. He’s just got to go out and be aggressive — him and Mitch (Lightfoot).”
KU coach Bill Self said Lightfoot will start inside for KU Thursday afternoon in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Kansas basketball seniors Clay Young, Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, at the conclusion of an emotional and rewarding Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse, discussed all that went into the 80-70 victory over Texas — and then some.
Fresh off of securing an outright Big 12 championship for the Jayhawks, Graham recalled the doubt regarding this team that he observed on social media earlier in the season.
“I don’t know if everybody seen that, but I seen it,” Graham said of a message that suggested he and his teammates didn’t deserve to wear the Kansas uniform. “It just put like a little chip on my shoulder and just let me go out and lead better and want it more. I know we all wanted it, obviously. But I think the negative comments and seeing people doubt us definitely made us have a chip on our shoulder.”
AMES, IOWA — After Kansas won, 83-77, at Iowa State, senior point guard Devonte’ Graham credited the Jayhawks for getting back on track, with the help of guards Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick.
“It was a good bounce-back win. It’s not easy to win here,” Graham said before leaving Hilton Coliseum. “And we had guys step up and make huge plays, and just contributing and doing the little things to help us win.”
The Jayhawks had all five starters in double figures versus the Cyclones, as they scored more than 80 points for the first time since Jan. 9 (also against ISU).
“Coach was on us at practice about guys passing up open shots and stuff like that,” Graham said. “So he just wanted everybody to be aggressive looking for their shot, and I felt like that’s what we did.”
Following his team’s 84-79 home loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham said the defeat felt even worse because it came on the day dozens of former players returned to celebrate the program’s 120-year history.
“You want to win and play for them guys, because they built this,” Graham said. “Everything we’ve got, we’re living is because of them. So you wanted to get the ‘W’ for them.”