Graham’s 35 carries No. 2 Kansas past Syracuse, 76-60
MIAMI — Devonte’ Graham wanted to get into the Miami Heat locker room. That’s about the only thing that didn’t go his way.
Graham matched his career-high with 35 points for the second consecutive game, Lagerald Vick added 20 and No. 2 Kansas remained unbeaten by topping Syracuse 76-60 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Saturday night.
Graham said he got excited seeing photos and banners from the Heat championship runs, and the inspiration from being on a court where Jayhawks legend Mario Chalmers and LeBron James — his favorite player — helped the Heat win NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 showed.
“It’s still nice to play in these type of arenas,” Graham said.
Graham shot 10 for 17 from the field and 7 for 13 from 3-point range for Kansas (7-0), which is off to its best start in seven years.
“We’re better when we have balance and he’d probably agree with that,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But on a night where basically we didn’t have much going on, he needed to do that. He picked his spots well.”
Tyus Battle scored 22 points for Syracuse (6-1), which was playing away from the Carrier Dome for the first time this season. Frank Howard scored 15 and Oshae Brissett had 13 for Syracuse.
Kansas made 11 3s, but needed 31 tries to get there.
“Kansas was averaging 90-something points per game or something,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Our defense wasn’t the problem.”
Svi Mykhailuk added 11 points for the Jayhawks, who shot 49 percent and held Syracuse to five baskets in the first half. Kansas used guard Clay Young at times against Syracuse’s 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu, and even that worked.
“I actually thought he did great — 6-3 guarding 7-2, I thought he did OK,” Self said.
The Orange trailed by 21 early in the second half before a 16-2 run over 2 1/2 minutes got Syracuse within 49-42, with Battle and Howard combining for 14 points during that stretch.
Graham connected on a deep straightaway 3 to end that Orange flurry, and Syracuse went cold quickly. The Orange managed only five points in the next 6 minutes, and Kansas rebuilt a 17-point lead on a dunk by Vick with 7:39 left.
The Orange didn’t get closer than nine again, and finished shooting only 32 percent.
“This game was a great game for us,” Boeheim said. “It was a great experience to figure out what we need to do in certain situations and when you get down 21 to a team like Kansas and you can come back … we’ll learn something there.”
Syracuse: As of now, this may be the only game Syracuse plays against a ranked opponent until facing Notre Dame on Jan. 6. None of the next eight opponents on the Orange schedule are currently in the AP Top 25, nor were any of their first six. … Miami coach Jim Larranaga, whose Hurricanes played in the second game Saturday night, spent some time watching Syracuse-Kansas — from behind the Syracuse bench.
Kansas: Graham had 60 points in Kansas’ first five games; he’s got 70 in his last two. … It’s still an unbeaten season for Jayhawk basketball — not only is the men’s team perfect so far, but Kansas’ women’s team is off to a 6-0 start.
Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters had a rare chance to see his beloved Orange — he played for Syracuse from 2010 through 2012 — in person, sitting courtside with Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley. He raved about Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone. “That zone’s for real,” Waiters said, quickly adding that he led the Big East in steals thanks to that zone.
Syracuse will be in Florida at least three times this season — this game, plus Atlantic Coast Conference games at Florida State on Jan. 13 and Miami on Feb. 17. This was the third visit by Kansas to the Sunshine State in the last 20 years. The Jayhawks went to Florida in 2013-14, and won a tournament in Orlando the following season. Kansas hadn’t played in Miami since 1990.
Syracuse: Faces Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Kansas: Faces Washington in the Jayhawk Shootout at Kansas City, Missouri on Wednesday.