Kansas guard Devonté Graham, who played 41 minutes Saturday against Iowa State and 36 more on Monday versus Kansas State, wasn’t complaining about being overworked after the Jayhawks’ 74-71 victory over the Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum.
The 6-foot-2 Raleigh, N.C., native said his legs actually felt fresh as he hit four free throws in as many tries in the final 25.6 seconds in Manhattan.
“I think it (fatigue) is more noticeable when we play Saturday/Monday games,” said Graham, “but we do a good job getting our rest and recovery time in, taking cold baths and stuff like that.
“We’re young. It’s not like we’re old guys or something like that. We get right back and ready for the next game.”
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Graham scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists against K-State after scoring 11 points with three assists and three turnovers in a 92-89 overtime loss to the Cyclones at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks put their conditioning to test in a three-day span, that’s for sure.
Four starters — Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas and Frank Mason — played 40 or more minutes Saturday, while Josh Jackson contributed 33. On Monday, Mason, Graham and Mykhailiuk played 36 or more minutes and Lucas and Jackson around 25 minutes.
“I’ve never had kids log this many minutes and compete that hard,” KU coach Bill Self said after Monday’s victory. “One got away from us obviously on Saturday. Then, with no rest at all, to come back and be the polar opposite from an energy and fatigue standpoint, I thought showed some toughness.”
Self has devised ways to make sure the Jayhawks (21-3, 9-2 Big 12) remain energized during the dog days of February.
“Coach has done a great job limiting their reps in practice, and then trying to get them a little bit extra rest before TV timeouts,” KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said while subbing for Self on Tuesday’s weekly Hawk Talk radio show. Self was on a recruiting trip to Oklahoma to watch senior point guard prospect Trae Young compete for Norman (North) High.
“Frank is in great shape. So is Devonté. If Josh could ever stay out of foul trouble, he’s in good enough shape to play the whole game, too. Now Landen (Lucas, 6-10 forward) is a different story. We’ve got to get him a little rest now and then,” Townsend added, laughing.
Senior guard Mason had one of the best hustle plays of this or any season during crunch time Monday. He tumbled into press row, then returned to the court to steal a Barry Brown pass and race to the other end before he lost the ball out of bounds with 1:02 left and KU up 69-65.
“We watched it on the bus (back to Lawrence) multiple times,” Townsend said of the replay. “It kind of compared to a play Jamari (Traylor) made at Texas a couple of years back.
“Frank’s was at a crucial time of the game. I think the reason he made the steal, when he jumped in the stands, I don’t think the guy (Brown) knew where he (Mason) was. He appeared on the court and ran through the pass (to Kamau Stokes). I told Frank if he got fouled and made free throws it would have been an incredible play and would have made ‘SportsCenter.’ He ended up dribbling it off his leg or something.”
Svi’s shot revisited
Mykhailiuk accepted a pass from Jackson and hit a three-pointer to snap a 63-63 tie and put KU ahead for good with 2:32 to play.
“Coach drew up a nice play for Josh so he (Jackson) would have it by himself underneath,” Townsend said. “Josh drew so many defenders, he found Svi.
“Svi is one of those guys if he has an open look, we are kind of shocked if it doesn’t go in. He has such a nice stroke.”
Bragg’s ankle is OK
Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, who turned an ankle early in the second half Monday, should not miss any playing time, Townsend said on Hawk Talk.
“It (ankle) is fine. He just turned it a little bit. He’ll be good to go on Saturday,” Townsend said.
KU will meet Texas Tech at 1 p.m. Saturday, in Lubbock, Texas.
Bragg scored six points and had three rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes. He had missed the previous three games while on suspension for violation of team rules.
“He played really well,” Townsend said. “When you sit out a while, you’ve got what we call fresh legs, where you have not been wearing yourself down every day. I thought that’s what he came out with.
“He gave us some really good minutes there to spell Landen. With Josh in foul trouble, being able to play with Landen some helped us. He will help us going forward. I was happy to see him play well.”