After going on a solid run through non-conference teams in the past month, Kansas closes out non-conference play when it hosts Temple out of the Atlantic 10 Conference on Sunday, January 6, at 3:30 P.M. (Central), on CBS. The Jayhawks have won 10-straight games, which marks the 12th time in the 10-year Bill Self era that KU has won 10 consecutive games.
Ranked No. 6 in both of the December 31 polls, Kansas is 11-1 on the season after its 89-57 win against American on December 29 to extend its home court winning streak to 29 games, which is second nationally. Self, though, has admitted that he sees improvement needed on the defensive side of the ball on his weekly radio spot on “Hawk Talk” after the win over American. “I’ve watched us play (on film). People are saying too much about our defense. It’s not that good. It’s not,” Self said Wednesday. Self states that KU may be getting lucky on defense when teams don’t make their shots and Kansas underestimates how well they are defending.
If teams they have played have been missing shots, whether it’s due to poor shooting or good defense, the test will come when Kansas faces a team with a high shooting percentage or guards that can put the ball in the bucket from long range. But, if this is Self’s biggest gripe about this team, fans will take it, for now. The problem arises when they face a hot team that makes their shots and Kansas defense won’t or can’t adjust to not allow open shots. That usually had a way of deflating a team, especially if it’s in the tournament in March.
Kansas starts four seniors, including three fifth-year seniors, and one freshman.
Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game, which leads all Big 12 freshmen and ranks second overall in the conference.
Senior center Jeff Withey has two double-doubles in his last three games and leads Kansas in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and blocked shots at 4.9 bpg, which also leads the league and is second nationally.
A Bob Cousy Award nominee, senior guard Elijah Johnson has a team-high 59 assists and is second on the team with 20 three-pointers made to complement his 10.1 scoring average.
From KUAthletics.com, Temple is 10-2 after defeating Bowling Green 75-57 on December 31 in Philadelphia. The Owls are coached by Fran Dunphy who is 144-67 in his seventh season at Temple and 454-230 in his 24th season overall. Temple’s win against Bowling Green was its 1,800th all-time victory. The Owls’ 1,800 wins rank sixth in NCAA Division I history. Kansas is second on the list at 2,081.
Temple is 4-1 in its last five games, which includes a win against previously unbeaten Syracuse (83-79) in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 22. The Owls average 71.6 points per game and give up 64.2 for a +7.3 scoring margin. Temple averages 15.3 free throws made, 8.7 steals and 15.5 assists per game, while shooting 22.3 three-pointers per game, making 31 percent from beyond the arc. Senior guard Khalif Wyatt leads Temple with a 15.4 scoring average and 51 assists. He makes 4.7 free throws per game with an 83.6 free throw percentage.
Kansas leads the overall series with Temple 7-3. KU is also 45-13 all-time against current membership of the Atlantic 10 Conference and has faced 12 of the league’s 16 teams.
Kansas, eight-time defending Big 12 Conference regular-season champion, will open league play when it hosts Iowa State on Wednesday, January 9, at 6 P.M. on ESPNU. KU will then play at Texas Tech on Saturday, January 12, at 3 P.M. on the Big 12 Television Network before returning home to host nationally-ranked Baylor on ESPN’s Big Monday, January 14, at 8 P.M.