LAWRENCE, Kan. — Devonte Graham’s shot hadn’t been falling lately, so the Kansas point guard had been content to dish out nearly 10 assists per game, a number that ranked second in the nation.
Well, his shot finally fell Tuesday night.
Graham hit five 3-pointers and poured in a career-high 35 points — and still racked up five assists without a turnover — to lead the second-ranked Jayhawks to a 96-58 rout of Toledo and extend the Jayhawks’ best start in seven years.
“I’ve been putting up some shots at night,” said Graham, explaining that assistant coach Kurtis Townsend had been telling him to hold his follow-through. “Just listening to him and getting in the gym.”
Graham wasn’t the only hot hand against the Rockets.
Malik Newman added 17 points, often cruising in for easy layups. Svi Mykhailiuk hit five 3-pointers and had 15 points. And big man Udoka Azubuike dunked his way to 12 points.
The Jayhawks (6-0) finished 12 of 20 from beyond the arc and shot 59 percent from the field, though emptying their bench early kept them from hitting the 100-point mark for the third still game. They also forced 20 turnovers by a Toledo team that had committed 25 total over its last three games.
“That’s a very, very good basketball team,” Rockets coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I’m not a Kansas basketball historian by any stretch, but in 30 years of coaching, that’s as good a team as I’ve seen.
“They are on ice skates,” he said, “and everyone else is in sneakers. They’re that fast.”
Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Nate Navigato scored 12 points apiece to lead the Rockets (3-3), who have lost three straight overall and 12 straight against ranked teams.
“I thought we did some really nice things,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought our shot selection was really good. I think you could count on one hand the number of marginal shots we took.”
If you take away a 7-minute stretch of the first half, the Rockets actually hung with Kansas.
Hard to take away a 30-2 run, though.
The Jayhawks led 18-15 when Mykhailiuk knocked down a 3-pointer to get the streak going. Graham scored the next three baskets to make it a 10-0 spurt. Then, after Fletcher scored the only basket for the Rockets, Azubuike flushed back-to-back alley-oop passes for dunks to begin another 20-0 charge.
Mykhailiuk hit a pair of 3s. So did Graham. And by the time Newman drained a 3 with 3:55 left in the half, the Jayhawks had hit 8 of 9 from beyond the arc and built a 48-17 lead.
“We were doing an OK job guarding,” Fletcher said, “and it just went south really quick.”
The second half wasn’t a whole lot better for Toledo.
Graham scored the first five points, the Jayhawks scored the first 13 and their lead had swelled to 72-30 before Navigato hit a 3-pointer for the Rockets’ first points of the half.
Graham finally substituted out for the first time in the game.
“He shot it, he handled it, he did what he wanted off the ball screen and he defended well too,” Self said. “He hasn’t seen the ball go in the hole, so it was good to see that happening.”
Graham didn’t get much of a break, though, considering the Jayhawks are still using a seven-man rotation with freshman Billy Preston sidelined indefinitely over an off-the-court matter. Neither did the rest of the Kansas starters as they tuned up for a game against Syracuse on Saturday night.
“We have a big one coming up,” Graham said. “That’s where our focus is now.”
Toledo abandoned the inside entirely, lofting up 29 shots from beyond the arc. They were just 8 of 21 everywhere else. One of those 2-point baskets in the closing minutes came from Justin Roberts, the son of Kansas assistant Norm Roberts, who got the start in front of his dad. “To be perfectly honest, that was an easy decision,” Kowalczyk said. “I made that decision in the summer.”
Kansas was scorching beyond the arc, but the Jayhawks also had a 35-23 rebounding advantage and outscored the Rockets 38-12 in the paint. That inside-outside balance is what makes Kansas so dangerous.
Toledo gets an easier task with Texas Southern visiting Friday night.
Kansas heads to Florida to face the Orange in the Hoophall Miami Invitational.