Sharp-shooting Jayhawks fly past Texas, 92-86
AUSTIN, Texas – No. 11 Kansas needed 17 3-pointers and three players to put up 20-plus scoring efforts to withstand the Texas Longhorns Friday night, 92-86, inside the Frank Erwin Center. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham led all scorers with 23 points and was joined by junior guard Lagerald Vick (21) and senior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (20) to eclipse 20 points.
The win, which marked the 27th-straight for Kansas in league openers, pushed KU’s record to 11-2 in 2017-18 and 1-0 in Big 12 play. Texas dropped to 9-4 in its season and 0-1 in the conference.
It was a back-and-forth affair for the majority of the first 20 minutes, with both teams combining for six ties and 12 lead changes in the opening frame. UT’s stellar freshman center Mohamed Bamba paced the Longhorns from the start, scoring 11 of his team’s first 13 points. But the Jayhawks kept up with the 6-11 foot big man with some hot outside shooting from Vick and Graham. The pair connected on KU’s first four field goals, all from 3-point range, to give Kansas a 12-11 lead less than five minutes into the contest.
Two minutes later, Malik Newman’s jumper kicked off a 9-2 KU run that gave the Jayhawks its largest lead of the half and, following a trio of Mykhailiuk free throws, KU was up 25-17 at the 9:29 mark. The eight-point Jayhawk advantage was short-lived though, after the home side with an 8-0 run of its own over the next 90 seconds. The UT spirt quickly evened up the score at 25-25 with just over eight minutes to play before the break.
Both squads traded blows over the final minutes of the first frame until Graham connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the half with a minute remaining to hand the Jayhawks a 37-34 edge just before the intermission.
The Jayhawks came out of the locker room intent on getting their Big 12 title defense off to a good start, almost immediately putting some distance between themselves and the Longhorns. Before five minutes were able to tick away in the second stanza, KU had built its lead to 13 points with more torrid shooting from beyond the arc. Vick began the half with his third 3-pointer of the night before Mykhailiuk nailed back-to-back treys just over two minutes later to give Kansas its first double-digit lead of the night at 51-41. Vick then connected on another three, putting the Jayhawks up 13 at the 15:28 mark.
As UT began to eye a comeback, the Jayhawks were able to keep the Longhorns at arm’s length. Mykhailiuk sunk his third three of the second half and was followed by Graham, whose trey with 13:35 got the KU lead back to 13, 62-49.
Texas was able to chip away over the next five minutes and, with help from an 18-5 run, cut its deficit to 72-67 when Eric Davis Jr. converted on two free throws with 7:25 left in regulation. With the 15,802 in attendance inside the Erwin Center on their feet and roaring for the hopes of an upset, Kansas was in need of an answer.
That answer came in the form of Kansas’ 15th and perhaps its largest 3-pointer of the game when Vick connected from long range at the 6:57 mark. The bucket, which gave Vick a career-high five threes, began an 11-2 Jayhawk spirt that once again helped KU put some distance between itself and the Texas.
With three minutes remaining, Mykhailiuk rose up and buried the Jayhawks’ 17th three of the game at the end of the shot clock to get Kansas’ advantage out to 86-72. That trey marked the most ever by a Kansas team in a conference game.
UT made a charge over the waning minutes of the game, however Graham and Malik Newman came up big over the final 30 seconds, going 6-of-7 from the charity stripe to ice the game for the Jayhawks and secure the 92-86 victory.
In addition to Graham, Vick and Mykhailiuk’s 20-point scoring efforts, sophomore Udoka Azubuike, who was forced to navigate the 8-foot wing span of Bamba for much of the night, tallied his fifth career double-double. The sophomore center netted 13 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
Sophomore Malik Newman rounded out the Jayhawks to score in double figures, ending the night with 13 points off the bench.
Kansas opens the 2018 calendar year playing host to Texas Tech, Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN. Kansas leads the overall series with Texas Tech, 33-4, which began in 1959. The Jayhawks have won 16 straight against the Red Raiders dating back to Jan. 16, 2010. Kansas is 17-0 versus Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse.
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