Devonte Graham’s 35 points too much for Syracuse to overcome in 76-60 loss to No. 2 Kansas

first_imgMIAMI — Kansas needed an answer. For much of the night, the Jayhawks defense stymied Syracuse. The Jayhawks raced out to a 14-point advantage at halftime.But now, to start the second half, the Orange was back. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, as they’ve done all year, were leading the offense. Battle made his first 3-pointer of the game. Then he drove in and got the and-1.Next it was Howard’s turn. A steal and a layup, followed up by an and-1 for himself. Then he hit a 3-pointer. The clunky Syracuse offense of the first half was gone. The Kansas fans, who’d been the louder supporters before the tip, ceded way to a raucous Orange crowd. A 20-point lead was down to seven.The Jayhawks’ next possession was falling apart, too. The ball was handed off to Devonte’ Graham with the shot clock winding down. Graham stepped back from Tyus Battle and shot an NBA-range 3-pointer with Frank Howard charging at him. It hit nothing but net.“On a night where basically we didn’t have much going on, he needed to do that,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “He picked his spots well.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse (6-1) was playing the toughest team it had all season on Saturday, and as a result, was seeing one of the best individual players in the country. Graham led the No. 2 Jayhawks (7-0) with a career-high 35 points, including seven 3-pointers. The performance was too much for the Orange to overcome in its 76-60 loss.The senior point guard missed his first three shots from deep in the game. It was part of a back-and-forth first 15 minutes, in which both teams struggled to hit anything from the field.Late in the first half, Graham knocked down a tough midrange jumper with Howard guarding him closely. On the next KU possession, Howard picked up his third foul trying to aggressively go over a screen and stay with Graham. Howard was sent to the bench and Graham hit two free throws.Then, in a blur, Graham knocked down three-straight 3-pointers. He smacked his chest and walked back with a swagger after the last one, culminating the stretch in which he scored the Jayhawks’ last 14 points of the half.Many of his 3-pointers, in both halves, came from the top of the key. Graham knew he’d find success there from his own experiences playing in a zone.“When we run our 2-3 zone, when the ball goes to the middle, we fan out,” Graham said. “You’ve got to leave somebody open, it’s usually the guy at the top.”Graham, who started the season in the conversation for the National Player of the Year award, struggled with his shot early this season. Through four games, he was shooting just 34 percent and averaging only 11.5 points.Then, in KU’s last matchup against Toledo, he exploded for 35 points. He matched that total again in Saturday’s contest.Graham, who came into the game averaging 8.5 per game, said that he balances his scoring and passing based on game flow. His shot wasn’t falling over the first four games. When it was tonight, he made sure to take advantage of it.Boeheim said that he felt the defense wasn’t the issue on Saturday, instead pinning the brunt of the loss on offensive ineffectiveness. Still, he wasn’t pleased with the defense played on Graham.He helped the Jayhawks pull away from the Orange late in the first half. When the Orange started creeping back in the second half, he made sure to keep it at bay for good.“Graham was really good today,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He kept making a shot every time we needed something.” Comments Published on December 2, 2017 at 10:59 pm Contact Tomer: tdlanger@syr.edu | @tomer_langer Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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