Bryan Armen Graham
Sunday January 3rd, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- Bill Self was loath to put too much emphasis on Kansas' eye-opening destruction of Temple on Saturday afternoon -- in a game many pundits had tabbed an upset special.

But Sherron Collins was happy to call it like he saw it.

"Of course I think it's a statement win," said Collins, the senior point guard whose 14 points and steady floor generalship keyed the top-ranked Jayhawks to a runaway 84-52 victory over the Owls at the sold-out Liacouras Center. "We were on everybody's losing radar all day. We don't take that lightly."

With Big 12 conference play getting underway one week from today, you can bet the Other 11 watched Kansas' masterclass with a touch of discomfort: a 32-point victory on the home court of a nationally-ranked team in the Jayhawks' longest flight from the Phog this season.

"Our season started today," said Self, whose team has won eight of 13 games by 30 or more points -- but played just one true road contest before Saturday.

In a matchup between two of the nation's stingiest defensive units -- Kansas entered limiting opponents to 58.6 points per game, Temple just 54.2 -- it was the Jayhawks whose depth and dazzling athleticism won out.

The frigid weather conditions outside -- 20 degrees and blustery on North Broad Street at tip-off -- had nothing on Temple's first-half shooting. The Owls connected on just 22.6 percent of their shots before the break, making just 4-of-16 attempts from beyond the arc.

They ended up missing 48-of-64 from the floor on the afternoon -- a dismal 25 success rate -- while hoisting up enough bricks for an urban renewal project.

"That's the most in-tune we've been defensively all year," Self said. "Fortunately for us, Temple missed shots."

The Owls missed 10 of their first 11 shots, but pulled within a basket when Fernandez rattled home a 3-pointer to trim the Kansas lead to 19-17. But the Jayhawks took control with a swift 19-4 run, keyed by nine points from Marcus Morris, who grew up less than two miles from the Liacouras Center.

"When they have a team on the ropes, they go for the knockout," said Temple's Ryan Brooks, whose 11 points matched a team-high. "They went on a little run and they didn't give us a chance to get back in the game."

When Temple upset third-ranked Villanova on Dec. 13, the Owls rode the hot hand of Fernandez, who poured in a career-high 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting (and 7-of-9 from beyond the arc). But the sophomore playmaker made just 3-of-16 shots against the Jayhawks, missing all but one of his eight 3-point attempts.

"Our guard play was excellent," said Self of Collins and Tyshawn Taylor (eight points). "They controlled the game defensively."

Kansas also dominated Temple on the interior, staking a 43-31 advantage on the glass and making 54.5 percent of their shots. Freshman swingman Xavier Henry (15 points) paced four Jayhawks in double figures.

Early in the second half, when Cole Aldrich broke free along the baseline -- compliments of a dubious moving screen -- and threw down a vicious two-handed tomahawk dunk, the Kansas bench nearly erupted onto the court. That score put the Jayhawks up 47-27 and broke the Owls' spirit for good.

It's too early to ask whether the Jayhawks will go undefeated, but a quick glance down the schedule indicates it's more than feasible. They'll be double-digit favorites in all but one game -- a Feb. 8 date with Texas in Austin -- and possess the right blend of quality, depth and veteran leadership to run at least the regular-season table.

"Talented and deep, that's a tough combination," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "They don't have any weaknesses."

Self believes things are coming together for this group. "For the first time [this season], it really didn't matter who was out there," he said.

But he has remained adamant about the team's need to improve each and every day to maintain its edge.

"We haven't really talked about being ranked No. 1," Self said. "We just talk about trying to get better."

Now there's one statement the Other 11 don't want to hear.

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