LAWRENCE — Tuesday night was an evening 101 years in the making for Ruby White.
Born less than a decade after James Naismith coached his final game at Kansas, three years before Phog Allen’s 37-year run in the same role and 39 years prior to the opening of Allen Fieldhouse, White made her first appearance at “The Phog” in the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ game against Toledo.
“Oh, those Hawks,” White told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “I watch ’em on TV. I’m going to be 102 in January, and they are my life.”
Unlike White, the Jayhawks fell just short of the century mark Tuesday, but Devonte’ Graham and company still gave the Kansas City, Kan., native an offensive showing she — and most everyone else at Allen Fieldhouse — won’t soon forget.
Graham finished with a career-high 35 points on 14-for-19 shooting, powering a Jayhawk offense that met the lofty expectations set by the team’s previous five contests en route to a 96-58 victory over the Rockets.
“I told Malik (Newman) at halftime my shot was feeling good ‘cause, you know, I haven’t been shooting the ball well,” said Graham, who also finished with five assists, five rebounds and no turnovers. “Just wanted to come out and be aggressive. My shot was fallin’ so I just kept attacking off the pick-and-roll, trying to get in the paint, and my guys kept finding me for open 3s.”
Newman (17 points), Svi Mykhailiuk (15) and Udoka Azubuike (12) rounded out the double-digit scorers for KU, which shot 59.1 percent in the rout and made 12 of 20 3-point attempts.
The Jayhawks (6-0) put on another offensive showcase in a first half that culminated in a 59-30 halftime advantage.
Leading by two early on, KU ripped off a remarkable 32-3 run that ended in a 48-17 lead. By that point, KU had made 20 of 27 field goal attempts and 8 of 9 3-pointers, including three by Mykhailiuk and back-to-back treys by Graham and Newman that capped the rally.
“We were really good the first half,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They go one-three-one and Svi takes a marginal shot and makes it. Whatever they did, we just made a shot, so I’m not sure it was good offense as much as it was just shooting the ball well. I didn’t think the ball moved great early, but … I thought we did some pretty nice things.
“I think you can count on one hand the number of marginal shots we took.”
Graham finished the first half with 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, and it was the senior guard holding his arms in the air for several seconds in celebration as Mykhailiuk hit a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer to finish the near-flawless first period.
“Oh, I knew it was going in. I seen it,” Graham said of Mykhailiuk’s trey. “It was a great shot and great pass by Lagerald (Vick). (Mykhailiuk) was hot. … He’s been hot since the start of the season.”
Toledo, meanwhile, brought in only five rebounds and committed 14 turnovers in the opening period, including back-to-back giveaways that followed thunderous Azubuike dunks set up by lob passes from Graham and Vick. To put it in perspective, consider this: KU scored 59 points in the opening 20 minutes … despite only shooting two free throws. In fact, the Jayhawks had only six free-throw attempts in the game.
The game may have been well in hand, but Graham’s squad wasn’t done in the second half. KU started the period on a 13-0 run, holding the Rockets (3-3) without a basket in the opening five minutes.
“I think (Toledo) got some good shots and just missed ‘em,” Self said of the second-half start. “I can’t speak for them but they were probably a little shell-shocked the first half. If you’d have told them before the game started, ‘Hey, you’re going to shoot 12 3s and make 7 in the first half, you’re going to say, ‘We’ve got a chance to be right there.’
“You make seven 3s and you’re down 29 at half, that would be pretty demoralizing.”
“We want Teahan” chants, referring to walk-on freshman Chris Teahan and as synonymous with a game being wrapped up as the “Rock Chalk” chant, began with 15-plus minutes to play.
Back to White, who was honored with a hearty ovation during a first-half break in the action.
Tuesday night’s contest may have been White’s first game at Allen Fieldhouse, but it wasn’t her first time in the historic arena. That honor came hours earlier when the Jayhawks welcomed her to shootaround, highlighted in a photo posted to the team’s social media.
“She’s got the most energy I’ve ever seen from someone that’s above 80,” said forward Mitch Lightfoot. “She was talkin’ and lovin’ on us and telling Chris she likes his red hair — she remembered that.”
Shown in the photo with the entire team huddled around her and smiles all around, White chuckled when recalling the experience.
“They came and met me and it was just beautiful,” White said. “And that Bill Self, brother, he’s awesome.”
With a firm grip on her interviewer’s forearm and her hearing aids out to help better manage the raucous noise level of the 16,300-seat facility, White grinned from her behind-the-basket seat on the floor when asked about the Jayhawks’ offensive eruption, particularly in the first half.
Asked her thoughts on the opening period, she laughed and exclaimed, “Oh!” She then brought it back to the only other place she’s watched Jayhawk games — her living room.
“I’ll be home by myself,” White said, “and I’ll be yelling.”
Of those two statements, only one was true for the centenarian Tuesday night.
“She didn’t get out in the stands,” Self said, “but she was definitely happy to be there.”
PRESTON SITS AGAIN; POTENTIAL WALK-ON PRACTICES — Freshman forward Billy Preston missed his sixth consecutive contest and fifth in the aftermath of a single-vehicle accident on campus that led KU administrators to seek a “clearer financial picture” of the automobile Preston was driving.
The Jayhawks are, however, exploring all options. Self said KU football tight end James Sosinski practiced with the team once and will continue to for the rest of the week. If all goes well, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound sophomore could become a practice player or depth option for the Jayhawks.