University of Kansas

Devonte’ Graham leads No. 6 Kansas to 76-72 victory at No. 3 Oklahoma

KU's Devonte' Graham was all smiles after scoring a game-high 27 points in the Jayhawks 76-72 win over Oklahoma Saturday in Norman.
KU's Devonte' Graham was all smiles after scoring a game-high 27 points in the Jayhawks 76-72 win over Oklahoma Saturday in Norman. rsugg@kcstar.com

Devonte’ Graham knew for a couple of days he’d drawn the Buddy Hield assignment and prepared himself accordingly. He’d devote the game to sticking with the game’s most dangerous offensive player, bothering him when he could.

If Graham could deliver on that end of the floor, anything Kansas could get from the sophomore guard would be a bonus.

Saturday, Graham delivered prosperity on both ends and led the sixth-ranked Jayhawks to a 76-72 triumph over Oklahoma that left the Jayhawks tied with West Virginia for first place in the Big 12.

Devonte' Graham scores a game high 27 points in win over OU.

“My main focus was Buddy,” Graham said. “Everybody’s focus is Buddy. I was just thinking, defend, defend, defend.”

And that worked. Hield, the Big 12’s leading scorer, finished with 24 points, about two below his season average but went 5 of 15 from the floor and didn’t have a field goal in the first half. It was the first time this season Hield went a half without putting a shot in the basket.

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But Graham’s production on the other end proved to be the game-changer.

His 27 points were a career high, and his play down the stretch was the force that carried Kansas to the finish line.

Third-ranked Oklahoma led 71-70 when Graham buried a three-pointer with 2:18 remaining. The teams traded empty possessions when Hield went to the line with 25 seconds to play. He made the first, his ninth straight, but missed the second.

Kansas secured the rebound and Graham was fouled. He made both, and after Isaiah Cousins missed a deep three-point attempt for the Sooners, Kansas’ Jamari Traylor clinched the game with a free throw with 10 seconds remaining.

The buzzer sounded and Graham couldn’t contain his excitement. He bounced with teammates, got pulled into the stands with blue-clad Kansas fans who made the trip, and was blasted with cheers upon entering the locker room.

“All the stuff he did for us today, he was big time,” Landen Lucas said. “He was a man for us today. He carried the team.”

Graham rightfully pointed out several other critical moments. Lucas took a charge on Hield with about 1 minute remaining. Lucas and Perry Ellis kept alive the possession that produced Graham’s go-ahead three-pointer with offensive rebounds. Wayne Selden Jr. didn’t shoot well but his lone three-pointer was a big one that capped a 7-0 run and restored a Kansas lead when it appeared the Sooners had planted a flag in the game.

But Graham’s effort was worth every salute that came his way. To have that much energy left to knock down three-pointers after chasing Hield all over the floor …

“I don’t know if our team is well conditioned, but I know he is unbelievably well conditioned,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “His defense was excellent. Last 5 minutes of the game he’s doing everything that requires energy.”

KU beat Oklahoma 76-72 Saturday in Norman

Perhaps Graham loaded up on inspiration, knowing he was facing the leader for national player of the year.

“Good players get tired of nobody talking about them and always talking about somebody else,” Self said. “I didn’t say it as motivation, but I think some of our guys did.”

Graham’s importance over the final three minutes was heightened by Frank Mason’s fifth foul. Jordan Woodard swished a three from the corner and Mason caught the whistle with 3:18 remaining. Woodard converted to give the Sooners a 69-66 lead.

Mason had played well, 14 points and three assists with one turnover. Now, the Jayhawks’ floor leader was gone. He walked past Graham to the bench.

“I looked at him and said, ‘Frank, I got you,’ Graham said. “I had to keep my word.”

Devonte' Graham scores a game high 27 points in win over OU.

Seconds later, Graham tied it with a three-pointer.

The triumph may not have included all the drama of last month’s epic triple-overtime contest won by Kansas, but this brought plenty of turns. The Jayhawks and Graham established the defense early, jumping to a 20-6 lead. Oklahoma, the nation’s top three-point shooting team, missed its first nine from deep.

But Oklahoma rallied back, mostly from the free-throw line and cut the margin to five at the break and was the more assertive team for the first 12 minutes of the second half.

Kansas wouldn’t go away, answering Oklahoma runs and finishing strong to complete its best week of the season.

The Jayhawks, 21-4, started the week behind West Virginia and tied with the Sooners for second place. Kansas beat both this week, and stands with the Mountaineers tied for first at 9-3 and a game ahead of Oklahoma.

Saturday’s triumph also gave Kansas a first signature road victory. The Jayhawks had been swatted down at West Virginia and Iowa State, and if they wanted to remain alive for a 12th consecutive Big 12 title they would need to be a contender on the road.

Plenty of work remains, but the Jayhawks find themselves in a familiar position, in first place in the final month of the season.

“It tells you we’re capable of being tough,” Self said. “I think we can play through some stuff.”

No. 6 KANSAS 76

No. 3 OKLAHOMA 72

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

KANSAS

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Lucas

28

2-3

3-4

6-10

0

2

7

Ellis

29

4-12

0-0

2-7

2

2

10

Mason III

26

4-7

5-6

1-5

3

5

14

Selden Jr.

32

2-9

1-2

0-2

1

2

6

Graham

39

8-13

5-6

0-3

2

1

27

Greene

25

4-8

0-0

0-4

2

4

9

Traylor

11

0-1

1-2

1-3

1

3

1

Diallo

7

0-0

0-0

0-4

0

3

0

Bragg Jr.

3

1-1

0-0

0-0

0

2

2

TEAM

0-0

Totals

200

25-54

15-20

10-38

11

24

76

Percentages: FG .463, FT .750. Three-Point Goals: 11-26, .423 (Graham 6-9, Ellis 2-3, Mason III 1-4, Greene 1-5, Selden Jr. 1-5). Blocked Shots: 3 (Lucas, Diallo, Ellis). Turnovers: 14 (Greene 3, Lucas 2, Graham 2, Ellis 2, Diallo, Bragg Jr., Mason III, Traylor, Selden Jr.). Steals: 3 (Mason III, Diallo, Selden Jr.). Technical Fouls: None.

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

OKLAHOMA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Spangler

33

1-4

1-2

2-7

1

4

3

Lattin

30

1-3

4-4

4-5

0

4

6

Woodard

30

3-12

3-3

3-6

4

3

10

Cousins

37

8-19

2-2

1-5

5

1

21

Hield

37

5-15

9-10

1-4

1

4

24

Buford

14

1-4

0-0

0-1

1

1

2

James

11

1-1

3-4

1-3

0

1

6

Walker

5

0-2

0-0

1-1

0

1

0

McNeace

3

0-0

0-2

1-1

0

0

0

TEAM

1-3

Totals

200

20-60

22-27

15-36

12

19

72

Percentages: FG .333, FT .815. Three-Point Goals: 10-32, .313 (Hield 5-11, Cousins 3-9, James 1-1, Woodard 1-6, Buford 0-1, Walker 0-1, Spangler 0-3). Blocked Shots: 1 (Lattin). Turnovers: 11 (Cousins 4, Hield 4, James 2, Woodard). Steals: 5 (Cousins 3, James, Spangler). Technical Fouls: None.

Half: Kansas 38-33. Attendance: 12,247. Officials: Mark Whitehead, Gerry Pollard, Don Daily.

AP-WF-02-13-16 2213GMT

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