Jayhawks pound the paint, top Texas on Senior Night
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Fifty-two points in the point, 20 of which came from sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, muscled No. 6/6 Kansas past the Texas Longhorns, 80-70, Monday night in the regular-season home finale. Jayhawk seniors Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham combined for 27 points in their final appearances in Allen Fieldhouse to help the Jayhawks clinch the outright Big 12 regular-season title, the program’s 14th-straight.
The win moved Kansas to 24-6 on the year, giving the Jayhawks 24 wins for the 13th-straight year, and 13-4 in Big 12 play. Texas fell to 17-13 in its 2017-18 campaign and 7-10 in the league.
The night was all about KU’s three seniors — Graham, Mykhailiuk and Clay Young — and the trio didn’t disappoint. Mykhailiuk scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half, ending the night going 7-of-11 from the field, Graham tallied his fourth double-double of the season, netting 10 points and dishing 11 assists, and Young logged his first-career start. The trio helped Kansas claim its 34th-straight victory in a regular-season home finale.
For a Kansas team that entered the night averaging more than 25 3-point attempts per game this season, the Longhorns made sure to take the deep shots away from the Jayhawks Monday night as KU was only able to get off a season-low 16 attempts from beyond the arc. With the long ball not available, Kansas turned to the ground game and was able to get to the bucket early and often. The Jayhawks saw 16 of their final 24 points come from in close to help halt an upset-minded Longhorn squad who was missing their stellar freshman rim protector, Mohamed Bamba, who was out with an injury.
The senior duo of Graham and Mykhailiuk refused to let their Senior Night get off to a bad start, combining for 15 of KU’s first 19 points over the first eight minutes of the contest. Despite the KU pair’s hot start, Texas still managed to hold a two-point edge, 13-11, at the 14:20 mark as the Longhorns connected on three 3-pointers to put the Jayhawks on their heels early.
The UT lead wouldn’t last long though. Less than 30 seconds later a Malik Newman lay-up sparked a 14-0 Jayhawk run the handed KU its first double-digit lead of the game. Mykhailiuk’s jumper, his fifth bucket of the game, at the 9:27 mark put his team up 27-13.
The Longhorns were able to close the gap over the next four minutes, getting their deficit down to six points, but KU came up with four-straight baskets to once again halt the Texas momentum. Graham found Mitch Lightfoot for a dunk with a no-look pass in transition and Kansas’ lead was back to 14 points, 37-23.
Both squads traded baskets over the final three minutes of the opening stanza as KU headed to the locker room with a 45-32 lead. The Jayhawks shot a blistering 60.6 percent (20-33) from the field in the first half, marking the 10th half this season KU has posted a shooting clip of 60 percent or better.
After sitting for the majority of the first half in foul trouble, Azubuike made his presence felt in the minutes that followed the intermission. The 7-0 sophomore scored KU’s first six points of the second half and helped weather another hot UT stretch out of the locker room. The visitors connected on five of their first nine shots after the break to cut KU’s lead to six points, 51-45 less than five minutes into the half.
Kansas continued its dominance in the paint though, with Azubuike and freshman Marcus Garrett combined to put in 12 points over the next seven minutes to help keep Texas at arm’s length.
Even after KU regained a 15-point lead with less than eight minutes to play in the half, the Longhorns wouldn’t go away. An 11-4 UT run pulled the visitors to within eight points, 73-65, with 3:39 to play but Garrett came up with another big bucket, hitting his lone 3-pointer of the game on KU’s next possession and to put the Jayhawks back up by double-figures.
From their KU held on for the 80-70 victory, closing out the game with a 60.3 percent (35-58) shooting clip and outscoring the Longhorns by a tally of 52-38 in the paint.
Azubuike led all scorers with 20 points, making 10 of his 11 tries from the field and added eight rebounds and five blocks. Mykhailiuk and Graham also hit double-figures with 17 and 10, respectively. Garrett rounded out the KU double-figure scorers with 11 points, all of which came in the second half.
Kansas will conclude the regular season at Oklahoma State on Saturday, March 3, at 3 p.m. (Central). The game will be televised on ESPN. The Jayhawks will then turn their attention to the postseason, which will kick off with the Big 12 Championship to be held in Kansas City’s Sprint Center March 7-10. With the win Monday night, KU clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will open play in the quarterfinals on March 8 at 1:30 p.m., against the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed game.
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