LAWRENCE — It took Devonte’ Graham less than three minutes Tuesday night to make arguably the early play of the year for Kansas.
By the end of the game — hell, by the end of the first half — it might not have even cracked the top five.
Graham’s drive and behind-the-back dish to set up Malik Newman’s 3-pointer kick-started a rip-roaring first half for the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks, who staked their claim as the best offensive team in the country in an eventual 114-71 record-breaking romp over Texas Southern at Allen Fieldhouse.
The opening 20 minutes were a thing of basketball beauty for the Jayhawks (4-0).
Graham executed a steal-and-lob to Lagerald Vick, who rose above the rim for a thunderous finish. Udoka Azubuike body-bagged 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed with a nifty post move and posterizing dunk. KU went on a 21-2 run … and, later, a 15-0 run. Malik Newman notched a steal and lobbed to Azubuike, who drew a technical foul for hanging on the rim too long on the ensuing dunk. It was perhaps the only lowlight for KU in a first half devoid of them.
The Jayhawks hit 12 treys in the opening period, breaking the previous program record for 3-pointers in a half by three.
In fact, KU hit nine of its first 12 3-point attempts en route to a 66-30 halftime edge. Every Jayhawk player was shooting at least 50 percent from the field until the team’s final possession, and KU finished the period with a 59-percent shooting percentage.
Graham’s 3-pointer with 9:59 to play gave KU a 91-55 advantage and represented the program record-breaking 17th trey of the game, and Mitch Lightfoot’s subsequent make from beyond the arc put the Jayhawks over the century mark with still more than seven minutes to play. Garrett’s 3-pointer with 38 seconds left gave KU its 19th and final trey.
Svi Mykhailiuk’s 21 points paced seven Jayhawks in double-figures, joined by Azubuike (20 points), Vick (19), Graham (17), Garrett (13), Newman (12) and Lightfoot (10). The Jayhawks shot 52.8 percent from 3-point range, while six KU players made treys and five multiple 3s, again led by Mykhailiuk’s 5-for-7 effort from beyond the arc.
The performance was a far cry from the grind-it-out victory a week ago over Kentucky, 65-61, at the Champions Classic in Chicago, but more in line for what is expected this season from the sharp-shooting Jayhawks — though against an admittedly far more overmatched foe.
Graham’s 11th and final assist in the double-double effort was arguably as good as his first. He recovered a loose ball and passed it off in a single motion to driving walk-on forward Clay Young, who capped it with a layup. Graham also had six rebounds and only one turnover on the evening.
KU was again playing without forward Billy Preston, who is still waiting to make his collegiate debut. Withheld as the school’s compliance department seeks a clearer financial picture on a vehicle he was driving on campus, the freshman’s absence again left KU with seven scholarship players and two frontcourt players against the Tigers (0-5).
The Jayhawks continue their nonconference slate with a 7 p.m. Friday home contest versus Oakland.