Jayhawks squeeze Orange in Miami

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) holds the MVP trophy as he and the Jayhawks acknowledge the KU fans following their 76-60 win over Syracuse, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

Miami — Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is not known for easily handing out high praise to his KU defenses, even in the biggest moments and after the most impressive performances.

That's what made his postgame love for the second-ranked Jayhawks' stifling, first-half defense in Saturday's 76-60 victory over Syracuse at American Airlines Arena so noteworthy.

“They missed shots, but I thought it was pretty good,” said Self of KU's defense, using verbiage that helped him adhere to his own standards about his favorite end of the floor. “You can't do much better than hold them to 21 points (in the first half). So I was pleased with it. It was the reason we had the lead at halftime. It certainly wasn't because our offense was so fluid.”

On a night when Kansas got yet another career performance from senior point guard Devonte' Graham, who tied a career-high with 35 points on 10-of-17 shooting — including seven dagger-like 3-pointers — the Jayhawks (7-0) needed every ounce of defensive focus they could muster and they delivered.

Syracuse (6-1) shot 32 percent for the game — 22 percent from 3-point range — and made just five field goals during the entire first half.

“Kansas is a tremendous team,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, matter-of-factly, after his team's loss. “But we have to play better offensively against them. Our offense just wasn't good enough today. And part of that was they're a very good defensive team, as well.”

That's quite a comment coming from a coach whose team, for decades, has been known for its vaunted 2-3 zone. And the Orange saw it work well in the early going against the high-scoring Jayhawks.

Kansas made just one of its first six 3-point attempts on Saturday but soon saw that slump straighten out when Graham began to heat up. KU finished the half sinking five of its next 10 3-pointers and drained 11 of 31 for the game, doing just enough to shoot past the Orange and their zone.

Related document

Box score: Kansas 76, Syracuse 60 ( .PDF )

“Kansas is averaging 90-some points a game,” Boeheim said. “Our defense wasn't the problem.”

With KU's usual bombers struggling to get going — Malik Newman was 0-of-6 from deep, Lagerald Vick 1-of-5 and Svi Mykhailiuk 3-of-7 — the Jayhawks often looked for other ways to go over the top of the zone, and they came in the form of crowd-pleasing, momentum-changing lobs.

Udoka Azubuike finished a few. Vick stole the show with two of his. And even Mykhailiuk and Mitch Lightfoot found themselves on the receiving end of those passes, most coming from Graham (five assists) and Vick (seven assists), who carried the Kansas offense in just about every way possible.

On the whole, Saturday's game felt like one of those grinders that you get in March, even though the Jayhawks owned a double-digit lead for nearly all of the second half.

After leading by 14 at the break, KU ripped off a 6-0 run to start the second half, pushing the lead to 20 and forcing Boeheim to take a timeout. It worked.

Midway through the second half, the Orange had trimmed KU's lead to as low as seven, but every time they threatened to get closer, Graham showed why people are talking about him as a legitimate candidate for some serious honors in a few months.

“He picked his spots well,” Self said of his point guard, who again showed he is the emotional and performance leader of this Kansas team.

Foul trouble also played a part in this one, though it did not cost Kansas nearly as much as it looked like it could.

After picking up his first foul at 17:07 and No. 2 a little more than three minutes later, Azubuike sat for the final 10:39 of the first half. While that might not be that bad most nights, it was made worse by the fact that sophomore sub Mitch Lightfoot joined him for much of it. That forced Self to turn to walk-on Clay Young, whose nine strong minutes helped Kansas extend its lead from one when he entered to 14 by halftime.

“The refs, they were calling everything,” Azubuike said. “That's the game sometimes. You have to work through stretches like that and Clay came (in) and helped us out a lot.”

Added Self: “I thought at halftime that there was no way that Mitch and Dok would commit six fouls in the second half, so I didn't even think we were in foul trouble with those guys. I thought they could both play substantial minutes and they did that for the most part.”

Graham scored 19 of his career-high-tying 35 points in the second half and also was on the passing end of what proved to be the exclamation point in this one.

With the Jayhawks racing up the floor for a rare fast-break opportunity, Graham fired one of those lobs to Vick, who hammered a nasty dunk down with his left hand and saluted the Kansas bench with his right as he landed.

That pushed KU's lead to 64-47 and Syracuse never crawled closer than nine the rest of the way.

“I've been throwing him pretty bad alley-oops lately,” Graham explained after the win. “I've been throwing them too far back. When I threw it to him, I didn't think he was going to catch it, but he went up and made an athletic play and hopefully we make SportsCenter.”

If that play was not on the popular highlight show on Saturday, there's little doubt that several others made by Graham were.

After returning home, KU will face Washington on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Syracuse



By the Numbers: Kansas 76, Syracuse 60

By the Numbers: Kansas 76, Syracuse 60

Comments

Matthew Coleman

Anybody know where I can find the postgame comments from the coaches?

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Steve Zimmerman

“The refs, they were calling everything,” - they were given twice as much FTs, we still won. KU executed their D to perfection, it seems, at least the first half.
Lobs city, baby!! Great great win tonight! Confidence level must be off the roof for the team. From now on, the question is really how bad we want to damage our opponent? NC is on the way! With or without Preston/Silvio!!! Go Jayhawk!!

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Tony Bandle

"Off the roof"? Kind of a clever combo of thru the roof and off the chats. Well done.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Marius Rowlanski

Syracuse was undefeated but still nowhere a top 10 team. No Preston AND no Silvio equal no NC. I really believe we need both but with at least one, then we have a shot.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Bryce Landon

We've proven we can win pretty - against most of our opponents thus far.

We've proven we can win ugly - against Kentucky.

And we've proven we can win against a long, bothersome 2-3 zone - against Syracuse.

So far it seems we can win any number of ways.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Humpy Helsel

I hate to be that KU homer that complains about east coast announcer bias, but that was pitiful. All of the first half talk from "has ACC tattoo on his heart" Dickie V and the other guy about Syracuse's vaunted zone, with hardly a word about the KU pesky, undersized man to man which held Cuse to 5 first-half field goals. The whole of the broadcast sounded like an ACC marketing event. Was this what this strange little tournament really was? This team is really showing some good defense and hardly a word about it on the broadcast. I'm going to go back and watch and listen to the replay and see if it is really as bad as i thought I heard last night.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Brian Babcock

I was very upset about the pathetic commentating. That technical was called and the next thing I saw was Syracuse taking the ball out. Maybe it was my internet feed but I didn't know what happened and the announcers sure couldn't be bothered to fill me in. I don't think they even acknowledged the foul trouble with our big guys and Mr. Young coming in and playing our big man position for over nine minutes. Clay Young for Governor!

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Andy Godwin

Impossible to know what was going on during the game with Dickie V. Would be nice now and then to tell the viewing audience who the foul was called on and why Syracuse got the ball out of bounds after there was a lane violation on their free throw attempt. Wasn't worth having the sound on if the announcers had no interest in the actual game.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Marius Rowlanski

How does Syracuse take the ball out after missing the FT and a TF for hanging on the rim?

If that is the correct ruling, we should incorporate that play into our offense.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Stephen Dobelbower

Can anyone explain what happened after the hanging on the rim Tech? Devonte shot what i thought was only one free throw then Syracuse took the ball out underneath their basket. WTF?

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Dirk Medema

Double lane violation? Possession arrow to Syracuse?

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Stephen Dobelbower

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr6HZ... 29:37 is when the tech occured. The lane violation on the free throw happens around 1:13:25.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Stephen Dobelbower

Oops wrong lane violation...

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Matt Tait

It was a weird play but it was ruled by officials as an administrative technical, which meant that it was neither a personal foul or a team foul and that's why it went to the possession arrow to determine who got the ball.

Self lobbied for basket interference on the play, too, because that would have given KU the ball, but the technical trumped that and made everything else on the play meaningless.

Definitely a weird play.

2 weeks ago

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Tony Bandle

I watched the game, turned off the sound and played Christmas Carols and just enjoyed the hell out of it!!!

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Marius Rowlanski

The Mitch Miller ~ Christmas Album? Grew-up listening to that album.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Bryce Landon

I'm only 30, but my mother grew up with "Christmas Sing-A-Long With Mitch", and so that album was (and still is, thanks to CD reissue) part of my Christmas celebration.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Andy Godwin

A recurring concerning early is that Newman is not providing his half of "the best backcourt in college basketball". If not for Devonte this outcome would not have been a happy one for KU fans. After watching Newman play in Italy, I expected him to be one if not the best player on the floor most nights. He still does not look comfortable in Self's system, which is surprising given it should highlight his strengths (he can score in many ways). Reminds me a bit of Svi during his first three seasons (not this year of course) that if Svi was not making his three point shots, he checked out on other parts of his game and was at times a liability. Newman would have sat more last night if not for Garrett struggling mightily against the zone. For this team to be great (obviously they need Preston to play), Newman will need to continue to get more comfortable with Self's team defense, learn to give up the ball on breaks when a pass is better than his one-on-one approach, and look for his shot within the flow of the game.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Kent Richardson

Second best part of the game, after AA Graham dealt us four of a kind three's hand, was when the Orange's center caused his entire team to draw an offside penalty when he did his Charles Barkley golf swing imitation at the free throw line. Poor guy.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Flip Shoemaker

A+ to the coaching staff, A+ to Devonte for the threethrows, Vick for being the designated leaper, and Clay for playing above his head. What a great win!

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Mallory Briggans

I think Newman offensive decline may be more him expending energy on defense.If you remember Coach Self started Garrett opening night because he was more active on defense and to send a message to Newman to tighten up his defensive play..Its a plus -minus with Newman and Garrett ...with Newman you can get production points wise but his defense may not be what Self wants
On the other hand Garrett can shut down an opponent and get an occasional score ....but dont underestimate his ability to score because he can ......I m not overly concerned with him being able to score he has a scorers mentality ..
This is a very balanced team and if we
get Preston and Desouza this season
and don't forget Sam
I'm looking on the positive side of things ...if that does happen ...wow

ROCK CHALK

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Harlan Hobbs

On the technical call, I have to assume that it was a "dead ball" call even though KU already had the rebound. Therefore, it must have gone to the "alternate possession" rule which gave the ball to Syracuse after the made technical foul shot by Devonte. KU got the opening tip, so the possession arrow was with Syracuse at the time of the call.

Of course, this is speculation because, as others have said, the announcers certainly didn't explain it.

As for the game, Devonte was obviously the Star of the Game with Lagerald as a strong runner up. However, the unsung hero was Clay Young who had to play the last half of the first half as a sub for Udoka and Mitch. Not only did he hold his own, but KU's lead grew. When he was the game, the tallest KU player on the floor, I believe, was Svi at 6'7".

Once again, Coach Self and his staff showed how they are masters of managing their lineup. Congratulations to all.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Stephen Dobelbower

On review of the game, I think you're right harlan. The midcourt possession arrow changed from before to after the free throws, but the television scoreboard possession arrow did not change.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Matt Tait

It was a weird play but it was ruled by officials as an administrative technical, which meant that it was neither a personal foul or a team foul and that's why it went to the possession arrow to determine who got the ball.
Self lobbied for basket interference on the play, too, because that would have given KU the ball, but the technical trumped that and made everything else on the play meaningless.
Definitely a weird play.

2 weeks ago

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Harlan Hobbs

P.S. You are spot on, Marius that, without Preston and/or de Sousa, we are too short handed up front to be a serious contender for a national championship. Other than that, KU has all of the ingredients.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Alan Dickey

The endless bad Dick Vitale commentary has been going on consistently for years. His cultivated persona is that he’s really passionate about college basketball, and he works hard to support that with loud emphatic repeated slogans, etc … However, contrary to that image, unless it’s Duke or UNC, he gets really bored with the actual game that he is calling and quickly begins straying endlessly into other topics that have nothing to do with the game being played. One of the worst illustrations I can recall was three years ago when my son and I were returning home from a backpacking trip on Nov. 30 and listened to the ESPN Radio version of the game, and there were constant really good explanations and facts ABOUT THE ACTUAL GAME BEING PLAYED. Then, later that night, I decided to watch the recorded TV version called by Vitale, and all of those good explanations and facts were almost completely lacking, while Vitale strayed from the game to talk about, for example, some ACC player’s personal situation. It was terrible and the exact opposite of the excellent commentary on the radio version.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

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