Temple, meanwhile, is looking forward to knocking off the defending national champions after its shocking 88-72 blowout victory over No. 8 Tennessee last Saturday.
KU (7-2) and Temple (5-3) meet Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in a 1:30
p.m. (CST) showdown on ESPN2. Kansas leads the overall series 5-3,
although the Owls have won the last two games with its last victory
(75-66 in OT) coming on Dec. 22, 1995 in the Jimmy V Classic in East
Bill Self’s Jayhawks need to beat Temple and Arizona (Dec. 23
in Tuscon) for a Merry Christmas. But to defeat the Owls,
they’ll have to stop the best Christmas in the country.
Temple All-America candidate Dionte Christmas is coming off a
season-high 35 points versus Tennessee, including an astonishing 30
points in the second half. The senior guard shot 7 of 14 from
three-point range, hitting four straight threes in just over a minute
midway through the second half.
"I got a lot of open looks because of the style they play," Christmas
said. "I had to take advantage of that and was able to knock some shots
down. When you're hot, you're hot. In the second half, the basket
looked like the ocean to me. Every shot I took, I knew it was going in."
Christmas, who earned ESPN.com National Player of the Week honors,
leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring (21.0 ppg) and is on pace to become
the first player to top the league in scoring in three consecutive
seasons. He also averages 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, while
shooting an impressive 40.3 percent beyond the arc. Christmas has made
29 of the Owl’s 58 three-pointers.
“He can do a lot of things,” said KU sophomore
guard Brady Morningstar. “He can obviously shoot the ball
well and he can take it to the rim also. If I get a chance to guard
him, I’m going to go at him and not back down.”
Christmas has a talented supporting class as well. Junior guard Ryan Brooks averages 13. 5 points per game, followed by 7-foot senior center
Sergio Olmos (12.8 ppg and team-best 2.8 blocks per game), sophomore
forward Lavoy Allen (9.4 ppg and team-high 7.7 rebounds), and senior
point guard Semaj Inge, who averages 9.3 points and a team-best 4.5
assists per game.
Freshman guard Ramone Moore (6.6 ppg) and junior guard Luis Guzman (3.0
ppg) add punch off the bench.
Olmos had a breakout game against Tennessee with a career-high 19
points and career-tying five blocks. Brooks shined as well with his
first career-double-double (16 points and a career-high 10 boards).
Temple is averaging 71.2 points, 37.2 rebounds, and 7.3 three-pointers
per game. The Owls, who are on a modest two-game winning streak, have
losses to Clemson, Buffalo, and Miami (OH).
Self has great respect for Temple and third-year head coach Fran
Dunphy, the former star coach at Pennsylvania.
“I think they’re good,” Self said.
“Fran’s a great coach, he always has been. He won
big at Penn. Christmas is a terrific player. He’s not their
only piece. They were very, very impressive against Tennessee. They
play two bigs (Olmos and Allen). They can play small, but they
traditionally like to play two bigs and play a lot of high low and do a
lot of stuff to get Christmas shots.
“They’re a very nice team.”
KU is a good team as well and two possessions away from being 9-0 with
last second chances to win against Syracuse and UMass. Self is looking
for a great effort from his team after the last four games of not
playing “particularly well. I think a large part of it is
because we haven’t practiced as well as we were practicing a
little bit earlier.”
Self singled out freshman forward/center Markieff Morris (5.2 ppg, 5.1
rpg) for making great strides in practice lately.
“I think he’s had a good couple of days,”
Self said. “He was the best player in the gym (Tuesday).
That’s a very positive thing.”
Self is trying to make his players understand that Kansas will get each
team’s best shot this season, especially being the defending
national champions. That was certainly the case against UMass, and
Temple should be no different.
A week after shocking No. 8 Tennessee, the Owls hope to stun the
Jayhawks and end their 29-game home-winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse.
“If we come out sluggish like we did last Saturday, we can be
beat by anybody,” Morris said. “We got to play hard
from the beginning to the end.”
Owl Season Opens Saturday
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