2009 came to an end, and so did Temple’s seven-game winning streak and undefeated record at home.
The No. 18 Owls lost, 84-52, to No. 1 Kansas Saturday at a sold-out Liacouras Center.
“Of course I think it’s a statement win,” Kansas’ senior guard Sherron Collins said. “I think we were on the losing radar all day. We showed why we’re the No. 1 team in the country.”
Except for an early 3-2 lead for the Owls, the undefeated Jayhawks (13-0) dominated from start to finish in their first true road game of the season.
“They made shots when they had to. They were relentless on the defensive end,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We had good looks at times and didn’t make them, and if we’re going to win this game, we’ve got to make the open ones that we have.
“But they’re a really good basketball team,” Dunphy added. “They’re talented and deep, a tough combination. They’re right up there [with the best teams I’ve ever coached against]. They don’t have any weaknesses. They’re good from the perimeter. They’re tough inside. They’re long. They’re very aggressive. They played like they’re the No. 1 team in the country.”
Freshman guard Xavier Henry led a balanced Kansas attack, as four of the five starters scored in double figures and the fifth scored eight points. Junior center Cole Aldrich pulled down his sixth double-double of the season (and third straight), as the Jayhawks controlled the glass with a 42-16 scoring edge inside and pulled down 12 more rebounds than the Owls (11-3). Junior center Lavoy Allen said Aldrich’s size [he is 6-foot-11-inches] and wingspan were hard to simulate in practice.
“We played Belmont the other day, and I think we outrebounded them by one, maybe two, and for our size, that’s just not acceptable,” Aldrich said. “Coach really harped on us. I think today, outrebounding [Temple] by 12, we continued to get extra possessions and made sure they didn’t.”
“We’ve got good guards, but we need to play inside-out,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “One of my assistants told me that in the first half, we scored on 70 percent of the possessions when one of the big guys got a touch.”
Temple hung with the top-ranked Jayhawks for the first 12 minutes of the game. After three straight 3-pointers (two from junior forward Craig Williams and one from sophomore guard Juan Fernandez), the Owls trailed by just two points, 19-17.
But then Kansas showed why it is the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. The Jayhawks went on a 21-6 run to close out the half.
“One of the good things they do well is when a team is on the ropes they go for the knockout,” senior guard Ryan Brooks said. “They went on a little run, and they didn’t give us a chance to get back in the game. Some stretches we settled for jump shots, shooting some contested shots that kind of got them in their transition game and kind of got their up-tempo type play going.”
In the second half, Temple tried to get back into the game via the 3-point shot. The Owls connected on just 1-of-13 and 4-of-16 from beyond the arc for the game. They weren’t much better inside, either, shooting just 25 percent overall. Kansas has held all but one opponent this season, Radford, to less than 40 percent shooting from the field. Three Owls players finished with double digits – Brooks and Fernandez with 11 points and Allen with 10.
Kansas, on the other hand, shot 61.5 percent in the first half when it jumped out to that 17-point halftime lead.
“We’re good defensively when we’re smart offensively, and I don’t think we were very intelligent offensively today,” Dunphy said. “When we can make shots, we can set our defense. When they get out in transition and run the ball at us, they’re terrific in transition [the Jayhawks outscored the Owls 19-3 in the fastbreak]. We just gave them too many easy baskets in transition, in particular in the first half, and they really set the tone.”
The Owls’ defense, ranked third in the nation, had not allowed more than 70 points this season. Their previous high in points allowed came in a 76-70 win against Western Michigan Dec. 1. Kansas hit that mark with five minutes remaining in the game.
Dunphy said the Owls will now “watch every single play of the game” in an effort to improve before the Atlantic Ten Conference portion of the schedule begins Wednesday night at home against Saint Joseph’s.
“We still have 17 games left in the rest of the season,” Brooks said. “This is something we can definitely learn from, a big learning experience for us. The first part of the season we thought we did a pretty good job putting ourselves in pretty good position. But this is a game that got away from us early, and we can definitely take a lot of things from this game. It was definitely a wake-up call and something we needed.
“I think it’s going to motivate us to let us know how hard we have to work to compete at a high level,” Brooks added. “The level of intensity that they had is something that we can definitely take away moving forward.”
Game Notes: 10,206 people were in attendance for Tuesday’s game against No. 1 Kansas, the first time the Liacouras Center had hosted the No. 1 team in the nation in its 12-year existence. The game marked the 10th sellout in the Center’s history and the first since Jan. 31, 2004 against St. Joe’s, when 10,421 people attended…Kansas now holds a 7-3 all-time advantage against Temple. The Owls last beat the Jayhawks Dec. 22, 1995 at the Meadowlands in the Jimmy V Classic…Temple falls to 2-13 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. The Owls’ last win came at Cincinnati Feb. 20, 2000.