'Hawks Drop the Owls, 71-59

Kansas lost just three games last year. After already falling twice this season, the Jayhawks certainly didn't want to match their loss total of 2007-08 before the new year.

KU came out energized against Temple on Saturday and beat the Owls, 71-59, at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks opened the game with a 13-2 lead and broke open the contest midway through the second half with a 15-2 run.

“It was a big win coming off a loss,” said sophomore guard Brady Morningstar. “It was a tough loss last week (to Massachusetts) and it’s good to get our juices flowing again heading into a tough game with Arizona (at Tucson on Tuesday).”

KU (8-2) led the entire game, but this wasn’t an easy victory. The crowd was on edge most of the game until Kansas made its second-half run. With KU leading 48-46, Tyshawn Taylor hit a jumper in the paint and Cole Aldrich swished a turnaround baseline jumper to spark the 15-2 run. Sophomore Sherron Collins scored five points with an assist during that stretch to propel KU to a 63-48 lead with 6:19 remaining.

And this game was basically over.

The Owls (5-4) got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way, and that didn’t come until star guard Dionte Christmas scored the game’s final points with a three-pointer with 1:48 left.

“Coach (Bill Self) said we needed to break it open,” Collins said about KU’s decisive run. “We were playing well and we had a lead, but we didn’t want them to come back. So I tried to get a spark and get a run going, and fortunately we did.”

Collins led KU with 19 points, while Aldrich added a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds). Morningstar (11) and Taylor (11) also scored in double figures. Markieff Morris got the starting nod and had an impressive game with eight points and five boards in 16 minutes, while twin brother Marcus played well with nine points and three steals in 25 minutes.

Self praised senior walk-on Matt Kleinmann for his solid play in the first half filling in for foul-plagued big men Aldrich, Markieff Morris and Quintrell Thomas. Kleinmann grabbed four rebounds in four minutes.

Temple appeared on the verge of possibly shocking Kansas and ending its 29-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse, as Christmas made four of five three-pointers (three straight) to open the second half and cut KU’s lead to 48-46. However, the senior missed his next three treys and Temple went just 1 of 6 from the field during KU’s run.

Christmas scored 18 of his 21 points (season average) in the second half with all field goals coming off of six threes. Morningstar did a superb job containing Christmas the first half; he didn’t score his first points until 1:51 remaining before halftime. KU then burst out on a 7-0 run to lead 38-30 at intermission.

“For the most part we did a good job guarding him and he still had 21 points,” Self said.

Overall, Self was pleased with the Jayhawks’ play after four less than impressive performances. KU shot 64 percent in the first half and 52.7 percent for the game, while holding the Owls to 40.4 percent shooting. (Temple, though, shot 10 of 20 from three-point range.) KU also outrebounded Temple 34-26 and outscored the Owls 14-0 in fastbreak points.

“We were pretty efficient offensively other than a few possessions in the first half,” Self said. “I am not going to say that we were great offensively today but we certainly played better than we have been playing lately. They cut into our lead in the second half but we executed when there was pressure. There were a lot of things that we did very well today.”

KU now heads to Arizona on Tuesday before a short holiday break. Self certainly has a better feeling about his team than he he’s had the past few weeks, and especially after the bitter loss to UMass.

“I think we lost last week because of the way we approached the game,” Self said. “You have to approach practice a different way. I think we were a lot more upbeat Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. We had good, crisp practices.”

And those practices paid off in KU’s victory over Temple.

“I’ve leaving out of here thinking we made some progress,” Self said. 

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