LAWRENCE — Kansas basketball’s seniors went out in style.
Guards Devonte’ Graham (10 points, 11 assists) and Svi Mykhailiuk (17 points on 7-for-11 shooting) joined sophomore center Udoka Azubuike (20 points on 10-for-11 shooting) in powering the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks to an 80-70 victory over Texas on Monday night in the final game of the season at Allen Fieldhouse. The victory clinched for KU (24-6, 13-4 Big 12) an outright regular-season conference championship, the national record-setting 14th straight league crown.
Fittingly, the Jayhawks’ iron man Graham played close to the full 40 minutes, though he, Mykhailiuk and fellow senior Clay Young checked out with 14.3 seconds left to thunderous ovations. After the game, Graham sat alone on a roller chair under the basket and looked up toward a postgame senior day video package, a towel over his head and perhaps a few tears welling in his eyes.
“They say you’re only as good as your seniors,” KU coach Bill Self later said in an address to the crowd. “Well, there’s a reason we’re league champs. We have great seniors.”
The Longhorns (17-13, 7-10) proved little threat to ruin the evening’s festivities. Already down sophomore guard Andrew Jones (cancer) and Eric Davis (withheld from competition as team investigates alleged payments from disgraced agency ASM Sports), Texas also was without 6-foot-11 standout forward Mo Bamba. The star freshman, averaging 13 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, is nursing a toe injury and didn’t make the trip.
In Bamba’s absence, KU practically scored at will at the rim, in particular in a first half in which the Jayhawks shot 60.6 percent from the field and 66.7 percent on 2-point attempts. The Jayhawks were a combined 12 for 15 on dunks and layups in the opening period en route to a 45-32 lead at the break, finishing the game 60.3 percent from the field overall and, again, 66.7 percent on 2s.
Trailing 13-11 early, KU broke the game open with a 16-0 run that featured a balanced offensive attack — Graham and Mykhailiuk hit 3s, Malik Newman and Azubuike had two point-blank buckets apiece, and Mykhailiuk capped the stretch with an impressive jumper, making the Jayhawks 12-for-18 shooting to start the contest.
Texas clawed back within six on an ensuing 10-2 run, but another stretch — this time 8-0 — again put KU in front by double-digits, 37-23. It was essentially smooth sailing from there for the first-place Jayhawks, who got one last highlight dime from Graham at the finish. Leading by eight with just over a minute to play, Graham found a streaking Mitch Lightfoot on a fastbreak lob dunk to again take a double-digit lead and ice the outcome.
The evening also proved special for Azubuike, who made his first 10 shot attempts. His second-half dunk through contact temporarily tied him with Danny Manning (1986) and Norm Cook (1973) for a program record of most makes in a game without a miss, but the 7-footer was blocked by Longhorn center James Banks on his 11th shot attempt.
KU will close out its regular season with a 3 p.m. Saturday contest at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys handed the Jayhawks one of their home losses, 84-79, on Feb. 3. In his tenure at KU, coach Bill Self has never been swept by a Big 12 opponent in the home-and-home series.