Temple came in fearless. Having already beaten Syracuse when they were ranked #3 in the nation and already facing Duke on their court, the Owls came in with a game plan to play at their pace, take care of the ball and let their scorer Khalif Wyatt create. They did everything they set out to do. It took some strong defense late and some creative matchups by Bill Self’s team to get by.
Wyatt was a problem all day. During Temple’s big run, he scored 11 straight from 16:12 to 14:14 in the second half. He was primarily guarded by Releford, but he worked four fouls on the senior and sent him to the bench with 15:32 left in the game. Along with his ability with the ball, Kansas didn’t take care of it on their end, making sloppy passes and getting caught moving the ball around on the perimeter and missing close shots when they got it inside. Temple only shot 30.2% from the floor all afternoon, but Kansas’s errors and their own efficiency limited a bad shooting day’s impact. Kansas couldn’t force turnovers and also had trouble getting long rebounds. Throw in some foul trouble and it looked dire for the Jayhawks.
During a stretch of the second half, Kansas was already in the bonus while Temple only had two fouls on them in the second half. Free throws kept Temple in the game, even though from 14:44 until the 8:00 mark they didn’t hit a field goal.
Kansas kept at it. With Releford on the bench, Ben McLemore spent a lot of time guarding Wyatt and it worked. Wyatt broke the field goal drought for Temple at the 8:00 mark but didn’t hit another basket until under a minute in the game as Kansas was closing it out. Between those baskets, Wyatt only added two free throws.
The player of the game was Kevin Young who made four baskets in the first half and hit six free throws with less than five minutes to go to keep Kansas around until they could pull away. He only made one more field goal in the second half but his free throws were big, especially since he was a 56.3% free throw shooter entering the game. He also added ten rebounds.
Even though Kansas had a sloppy game, they fed off of the crowd. An alley oop woke everyone up when Elijah Johnson left it up for Ben McLemore (Johnson later called McLemore “Superman”). Once Temple got the lead, it never got any bigger than four points. With a 54-50 score, Elijah Johnson stepped up, making two layups to tie the score with 5:12 to play. Temple answered with a three pointer but didn’t score again for three minutes.
The key play came with 2:50 left when McLemore stole the ball on the sideline and took it in for a wide open dunk. The play gave Kansas the lead for good and brought everyone in Allen Fieldhouse to their feet (all while Temple was going without field goals). Over the last three minutes, Jeff Withey stepped up, too, blocking three shots late and disrupting others so while Temple was able to get a shot off, they weren’t falling. Meanwhile, Kansas was putting distance between them and the Owls, culminating in a three point shot by Releford to make the score 65-58.
This was a good game for the Jayhawks to survive. They played a very tough team in Temple who I wouldn’t want to see again come March. They play with a style that works to their advantage and they play a disciplined game. They’ll knock someone out in the tournament. Kansas hung in there, and when they needed to make a play, they did it. Temple only turned the ball over four times all game and as a team that wants to get out and run and create mismatches, it’s tough to get that rhythm going when fast break opportunities don’t present themselves. They used a patient half court game to close it out and hit their free throws (16-18 as a team).
Kansas starts Big 12 conference play on Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse when Iowa State comes to town. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. CST. The Cyclones are 10-3 but have won four straight games. They’re 0-2 vs. ranked teams this season (UNLV and Cincinnati).