Kansas entered Monday night’s matchup with Temple having won eight games in a row, including four over teams in the top 30 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The streak helped Kansas to improving its record, RPI and NCAA Tournament resume. It served another purpose as well: fading the memory of that 32-point loss to Kentucky at the Champions Classic.
In recording eight consecutive Ws, the thinking went, Kansas had built a convincing case that the lopsided defeat in Chicago was an aberration. That may very well be the case, but a 77-52 loss to the Owls won’t do Bill Self’s team any favors in the court of public opinion.
Temple (8-4) attacked Kansas early, opening up a 12-2 lead before Kansas called its first timeout. The Jayhawks never really recovered from the rough start. After freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. cut the Owls’ lead to eight early in the second half, Temple scored seven consecutive points to take a 15-point lead. The Owls’ advantage grew from there, with Will Cummings drilling a jumper at the 6:39 mark for a 25-point advantage.
The senior paced the Owls with 19 points, and fellow guards Quenton DeCosey and Jesse Morgan contributed 17 and 18 respectively. For Kansas, point guard Frank Mason led the way with 20 points, but he didn’t get nearly enough help from his teammates. The rest of Kansas’ starters combined for 23 points.
Temple fans celebrated on the Wells Fargo Center court after the win:
Given the winning stretch that preceded Tuesday’s debacle, it’s tempting to file away this loss as a matter of “holiday sluggishness,” or something along those lines. Yet there are legitimate concerns to be raised. For one, Kansas was jarringly stagnant on the offensive end against a team that entered Tuesday ranked 62nd in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency.
It’s one thing to manage only 0.66 points per possession against Kentucky’s squadron of long-limbed lottery picks. It’s entirely another to get limited to well under a point per possession versus a team not particularly renowned for its defensive prowess.
The Jayhawks didn’t make up for their offensive woes on the other end of the floor either. Temple shot 58.3 percent from the field (despite entering the game 340th out of 351 teams nationally in field goal percentage), had three players score at least 17 points and committed five fewer turnovers than Kansas. The Jayhawks were especially permissive inside the three-point line, as Temple shot 75 percent on its twos.
Some will continue to view Kansas as the odds-on favorite in the Big 12, even though Texas has looked more formidable during the non-conference season. That viewpoint is based more on blind faith than anything else; the Jayhawks have won at least a share of the last 10 conference titles.
Kansas is more than capable of extending that streak, but it will need to iron out some kinks before the start of conference play. The Jayhawks will take on Kent State and UNLV before opening the Big 12 season on Jan. 7 at Baylor.