A double-figure scorer in Kansas’ first five games, Devonté Graham settled for six points in Friday night’s 95-57 home rout of UNC Asheville.
“I like throwing lobs and getting assists,” Graham, KU’s 6-foot-2 junior guard from Raleigh, N.C., said after a career-high 11-assist outing against the Bulldogs. He had just two turnovers and has a team-leading 34 assists against 10 turnovers. “Coach (Bill Self) said I had six assists at halftime. I was trying to get 10. I ended up getting 11.
“I wasn’t really looking to score as much,” added Graham, who is third on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game entering Tuesday’s 7 p.m. home game against Long Beach State. “He told me to look to score more in the second half. I was still trying to get dimes.”
Graham took a season-low four shots, hitting two. All four of his attempts were threes. His previous low in shots this season was seven against Siena, a game in which he scored 13 points with nine assists and no turnovers.
“I thought he was really good,” Self said of Graham, whose 11 assists came in 28 minutes. “Frank (Mason, 21 points) scored the points. I thought Devonté was certainly the facilitator.”
Senior guard Mason, who is KU’s leading scorer at 21.5 points a game, hit five threes in as many tries on a night KU was 13 of 21 from beyond the arc (61.9 percent). For the year, the Jayhawks, 5-1, have cashed 35.5 percent of their threes (43 of 121). Opponents are 45 of 124 for 36.3 percent.
“It was good to see the ball go in the hole, good to see Lagerald make a couple of shots,” Self said of sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, who hit 3 of 4 threes and scored 15 points. He opened the season by missing 13 of his first 14 threes.
“We are probably always going to be a relatively streaky three-point shooting team. Not everybody will go 5-for-5. Josh took a couple of threes off-balance,” Self added of freshman guard Josh Jackson, who was 0 for 3 from three but hit 5 of 8 shots from inside the arc and scored 14 points. “It’s hard to complain too much about threes when we go 13 of 21. We shot it well, shared it well (28 assists to UNC Asheville’s 10),” Self added.
Jackson, who had a career-high seven assists, has 19 assists to 11 turnovers this season. Mason has 30 assists and 18 turnovers.
“He is a terrific passer,” Self said of Jackson. “He probably has the best vision on our team. Maybe he does not always make the perfect pass, but he sees it. He is getting more and more comfortable all the time.”
Freshman big man Udoka Azubuike, who flushed seven dunks en route to 17 points, wasn’t the only Jayhawk to score off alley-oop feeds from Graham on Friday. Jackson slammed a lob to give KU a 35-19 lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.
“We do that a lot in practice,” Graham said. “Josh is good at that backdoor from the corner. I can see him cutting in every time. I throw it up there, he’ll get it.”
KU, which hit 62.3 percent of its floor shots Friday, was only 6 of 16 from the free-throw line. Junior forward Dwight Coleby and junior walk-on Clay Young accounted for six of the misses in the final moments, with the game well out of reach. Coleby hit 1 of 4 and Young was 0 of 3.
“I thought it was better,” Self said of the team’s collective energy. “I still don’t think it was exceptional. I thought we played better. We kept balls alive, did some nice things.”
One plus for Graham is he appears to have solved the cramping problems that affected him the first three games and two exhibition games.
“I’m just trying to eat more,” Graham said. “I wasn’t eating enough, especially during the day. I might have been too excited on game day, not eating. I’ve been drinking Gatorade, water, eating bananas. I’m fine.”
▪ Long Beach State, which was the media’s pick to win the Big West Conference, will take a 1-7 mark into Tuesday’s game.
The 49ers have lost road games to Wichita State (92-55), North Carolina (93-67), Louisville (88-56), UCLA (114-77) and Washington (94-88) and defeated Cal State Los Angeles 95-59 at home. Long Beach State dropped a pair of mainland games in the Battle4Atlantis on Thursday and Friday, falling to Binghamton (72-64) and Florida Gulf Coast (68-67 in overtime) in Fort Myers, Fla.