Graham leads Jayhawks to win over Texas Tech, share of 14th straight Big 12 Title
LUBBOCK, Texas – Senior guard Devonte’ Graham netted 18 points in the game’s final 14 minutes Saturday to lift the No. 8 Jayhawks to a 74-72 victory over the No. 6 Texas Tech Red Raiders inside United Supermarkets Arena. The win clinched Kansas its 14th-straight Big 12 regular-season championship, an NCAA record.
KU passed UCLA, which won 13-straight Pac-10 championships from 1967-79. The win, which moved KU to 23-6 and 12-4 in the Big 12, clinched at least a share of Kansas’ 61st overall regular-season league title, also an NCAA record.
In the squads’ first meeting this season, on Jan. 2, the Red Raiders never trailed as they cruised to a 12-point win at Allen Fieldhouse. On Saturday, the Jayhawks flipped the script, never falling behind to a Texas Tech team that entered the day boasting a 17-game home winning streak.
The Jayhawks sprinted out to a quick start, hitting four of their first six shots to get out to an 8-0 lead over the first 3:30 minutes. TTU responded with four-straight field goals of its own, clawing back to within three points, 13-10, by the first media timeout.
Just as they proved for much of the game, Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk were the catalysts for the Jayhawks in the opening stages of the first half, netting 17 of their team’s first 25 points. Mykhailiuk connected on his third 3-pointer of the game to beat the shot clock and give KU a 23-18 lead with 10:51 left in the half.
A bit later, Malik Newman drilled back-to-back treys to hand KU its first double-digit lead, 33-23, with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.
Two minutes later, Mykhailiuk muscled his way inside to tip in a Newman miss, which gave the Jayhawks an 11-point advantage, their largest of the half, at 37-26. But Texas Tech had an answer. The Red Raiders closed the period on an 11-4 run to cut the KU lead to four points, 41-37.
TTU carried that momentum into the second half and needed only four minutes to whittle the KU lead down to a point at 45-44. But Graham began one of the best 14-minute stretches of his career, scoring 10 points during a 15-8 Kansas run that saw the Jayhawks extend their lead to eight. His 3-pointer at the 8:30 mark pushed the lead to 60-52.
KU kept the Red Raiders at arm’s length over the next four minutes. Graham connected on his fourth and final 3-pointer of the day, a desperation heave to beat the shot clock, and Kansas held a 67-59 advantage with 4:30 remaining.
The Red Raiders, however, did not go down without a fight. The home side answered with a 9-1 run, knotting the score at 68 on Zhaire Smith’s dunk at the 2:32 mark.
But once again, Graham would not let his team fall behind. The senior guard swished a mid-range jumper with 90 seconds remaining to put the Jayhawks up, 70-68, and after KU forced a turnover on Texas Tech’s ensuing possession, he came up big again. With the shot clock winding down, Graham forced his way into the lane and threw up an acrobatic leaner that somehow found its way through the net. The bucket gave KU a four-point advantage with 31 seconds remaining, and following some late free throws, KU hang on for the victory.
Graham (26) and Mykhailiuk (21) combined for 47 of their team’s 74 points, going 8-of-17 from beyond the 3-point line. Malik Newman was the only other Jayhawk to hit double figures, scoring 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Udoka Azubuike pulled down a game-high seven rebounds to go along with his three blocks in 29 minutes of action.
Kansas shot 50 percent from the field (26-52) and connected on 11 3-pointers, while holding Texas Tech to 43 percent from the field (37 percent in the second half).
Kansas will close out its home portion of the 2017-18 season when it plays host to Texas, Feb. 26, on ESPN Big Monday. Tip time from Allen Fieldhouse will be 8 p.m. Beginning in 1983-84, Kansas has won a mindboggling 34-straight home finales, which includes 33 Senior Nights. In 2007, KU did not have a senior on the roster. Kansas will recognize three senior men’s basketball players – Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Clay Young. Additionally, senior managers Brayden Carroll and Collin Cook will be introduced. The game will also mark the final home contest for Jayhawk IMG Radio Network producer/engineer Bob Newton, who is retiring after 34 years of service to the network.