Devonté Graham headed to Kansas’ basketball bench with 8:03 left in Tuesday’s 96-58 home rout of Toledo well-aware he’d scored a bundle of points.
“I knew the ball was going through the hoop. I wasn’t sure how many I had. When I came out they told me I had 35,” Graham, KU’s 6-foot-2 senior point guard from Raleigh, N.C., said of unnamed teammates.
“They thought I was going to go back in.”
Good sportsmanship certainly dictated Graham, who played 30 minutes total, sit the remainder of the contest, considering the Jayhawks held a 51-point lead following a Graham three-pointer at 8:21.
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That three, on Graham’s last shot of the night, gave him a career high in points (35) on a career high in shots (19) and field goals made (14). His five threes made were one off a career-best mark.
“I’m just satisfied with a win,” Graham said.
His 35 points fell just six shy of the most scored by a Jayhawk player in the 15-year Bill Self era. Andrew Wiggins scored 41 points against West Virginia on March 8, 2014, in Morgantown, W.Va. Elijah Johnson had 39 at Iowa State in 2013, and Ben McLemore totaled 36 against West Virginia in 2013.
“I think he’s capable of that, especially when he sees the ball go in. I’m not surprised he had 35, not surprised at all,” KU sophomore guard Malik Newman said after Graham surpassed his old high of 27 points, which he had attained twice. His previous high in field goals made was eight on three occasions, and his former high in field-goal attempts was 16 against Texas Southern on Nov. 21.
Graham — who told Newman “before the game I felt I was going to be hot” — said though he’s not interested in his own scoring totals, he’s fixated on another stat category — assists versus turnovers.
“I checked that,” said Graham.
He had five assists against no turnovers against Toledo and for the season has dished out 51 assists to 15 turnovers.
His 8.5 assists per game rank fourth nationally.
“I get excited off of assists just as much as I do scoring, finding them (teammates) for open shots, getting threes, throwing lobs to Udoka (Azubuike). That gets me going,” Graham said. “Any little thing that gets us a basket, that’s a positive. I always ask how many turnovers I’ve got during the course of the game. That’s one thing I do ask about. I don’t really ask about points.”
KU as a team ranks No. 4 nationally in assist/turnover ratio.
The Jayhawks, who will take a 6-0 record into Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. Hoophall Miami Invitational game against Syracuse (6-0) at American Airlines Arena in Miami, average 94.5 points a game, which ranks No. 7 nationally. Florida at midweek averaged a nation’s best 99.5 points per contest.
KU ranks fourth in field goal percentage (54.1), fifth in assists per game (20.0) and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (45.2). KU is No. 1 overall in scoring margin (33.0), particularly impressive considering the Jayhawks beat Kentucky by just four points (65-61) on Nov. 14 in Chicago..
“Awesome,” center Azubuike, who averages 16.0 points per game on 75.9 percent shooting said of the offense. “My teammates shoot the ball so well. I’m happy with what we’re doing now. The way we are shooting the ball … it’s great.”
KU hit 24 of 32 shots for 75 percent the first half Tuesday. It marked the best field-goal percentage in a half by a KU team since the Jayhawks were 23 of 29 for 79.3 percent in the first half of a win over Baylor on Jan. 17, 2011. KU finished 39 of 66 for 59.1 percent against Toledo, including 12 of 20 from three for 60 percent.
“They pass me the ball. If I get double-teamed, if it’s crowded, all I’ve got to do is pass the ball out and it’s a three. It’s win/win for us,” Azubuike stated.
Graham noted that the Jayhawks, “have really been shooting well. I just hope we can keep it up. Coach is always talking about, ‘What are we going to do when we don’t make shots?’ So I think we’ve got to focus a little more on the defensive end and locking guys down. As far as shooting goes, guys have to be aggressive looking for the open shot and open player.”
KU ranks 29th nationally in points allowed (61.5), 12th in field-goal percentage defense (35.9) and 67th in three-point field-goal percentage defense (30.3).
Self certainly isn’t complaining about the offense. KU scored 100 points or more in two of the last three games to go with a 98-point outing vs. South Dakota State and Tuesday’s 96-point contest.
“I didn’t think the ball moved great early (Tuesday),” Self said. “We had 16 assists (to nine turnovers) with most of our stuff off the bounce. I thought our shot selection was pretty good. I think you can count on one hand the number of marginal shots we took.”