Graham shines in Miami as No. 2 Kansas stops Syracuse, 76-60
MIAMI – For the second-time in as many games, Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham netted a career-high 35 points to lead the No. 2 Jayhawks to a 76-60 win over the Syracuse Orange Saturday night at the Miami Hoophall Invitational inside American Airlines Arena. Graham, along with junior guard Lagerald Vick scored 55 of KU’s 76 points as the Jayhawks picked up their first win over the Orange since 2001.
The win moved Kansas to 7-0, its best start to a season since the 2010-11 campaign. Syracuse suffered its first loss of the year, now sitting at 6-1.
The first half was a sloppy affair as both teams combined for 20 turnovers. During the first 10 minutes both squads combined for an 8-of-23 (35 percent) clip from the field. Vick paced the Jayhawks in the early going when he scored nine of his team’s first 11 points, including a dunk to give Kansas an early 7-6 lead 3:30 into the game.
After the Orange went up by a point on a Tyus Battle jumper, Svi Mykhailiuk took over. He scored eight-straight points with back-to-back 3-pointers and an alley-oop dunk to stop the Syracuse charge. Mykhailiuk’s stretch kick-started a 13-3 KU run to put the Jayhawks ahead 26-17 with just under four minutes to play in the opening frame.
That’s when Mykhailiuk passed the torch to Graham, who scored each of the Jayhawks’ final 14 points of the first half and began to put together what would be another career night. The senior guard gave his team its first double-digit lead of the game when he buried his first trey of the night and the 200th of his career. He followed with another 70 seconds later and a third with just over a minute left to push the Jayhawk lead to 35-21 at the intermission.
Kansas came out of the locker room on a sprint and quickly pushed its lead to 20 points less than 90 seconds into the half. Graham’s hot shooting from the final four minutes of the first half carried over to the second. After picking Oshae Brissett’s pocket going for a lay-up on the other end, he knocked down two more threes, which got his team’s lead up to 47-26 with 17:20 left.
The 21-point deficit didn’t squash the Orange though, who used a 16-2 run to quickly get themselves back in the game. Syracuse cut the KU lead to just seven points at 49-42 on a Brissett lay-up, still with 14 minutes remaining in regulation.
But Graham was there again to spark the Kansas offense. He connected on perhaps the biggest of his seven 3-pointers to halt the Syracuse run. He then went on a perfect 5-of-5 stretch from the free throw line to get Kansas’ lead back to double-figures at 57-45. The senior nailed his career-high seventh trey a minute later before Vick followed with a jaw-dropping one-handed dunk to get Kansas lead to 64-47 with 7:39 left in the game.
Syracuse was able to muster one more run, a stretch that saw the Orange cut the KU lead to nine points with four minutes left in regulation, but KU closed the game on an 8-1 run to get its lead back to 16, where it would stay.
Graham led all scorers with 35 points, tying his career high and posting back-to-back 30-point outings for the first time since Andrew Wiggins accomplished the same feat in 2014. Vick added 20 points and posted a career-high-tying seven assists to lead the Jayhawks. Mykhailiuk joined his teammates in double-figures with 11 points, going 4-of-9 from the field, three of those coming from 3-point range.
Kansas shot below the 50 percent mark for just the second time this season, going 27-of-55 for a 49.1 percent mark. However, the KU defense held the Orange to 32 percent (18-of-56) shooting. Syracuse’s 18 field goals were the fewest by a KU opponent since TCU had 14 in the contest in Fort Worth during the 2015-16 season.
Kansas will host Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 6, in the Jayhawk Shootout at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Tip time will be at 8 p.m. (Central) and the game will be televised on ESPN2. KU is 8-1 all-time against Washington with the last meeting a KU 73-54 win on Nov. 24, 2008, in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic played at Sprint Center. Kansas will then host Arizona State on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 1 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
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