Scouting Temple

News, notes and quotes on No. 1 KU's battle at No. 18 Temple today at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia at 4:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2. Bob Wischusen and Len Elmore will call the action.

SCOUTING TEMPLE

The Owls (11-2) return two starters off last year's 22-12 team. Temple, which has won seven straight and ranked in the top 25 for the first time since November of 2001, is off to its best start since the 1993-94 team opened at 16-2.

Head coach Fran Dunphy's ball-controlled Owls rank third in the nation in scoring defense (54.2 ppg), and fourth in three-point percentage defense (.240) and fewest turnovers per game (10.5).

Temple averages 64.1 points per game, shoots 42.1 percent from the field, 33.3 percent beyond the arc, and 63.7 percent at the free-throw line. The Owls outrebound foes 38.0 to 34.4 per game.

Their two losses this season came at then-No. 19 Georgetown (46-45) in the second game of the season on Nov. 17 and vs. St. Johns (55-48) in  a neutral site game at the Palestra in the final of the Philly Hoop Group Classic on Nov. 28. The Owls, who were picked to finish fifth in the preseason Atlantic-10 poll, have since exploded on the national scene with their seven-game winning streak, including a 75-65 home victory over then-No. 3 Villanova on Dec. 13. Temple also won at Miami (OH) and at Seton Hall.

Six-foot-four sophomore guard Juan Fernandez led Temple to a huge victory over the Villanova Wildcats with a career-high 33 points. He shot 11-of-15 from the field, including 7-of-9 from three-point range.

"Occasionally he does get unconscious and he was unconscious today," Dunphy said afterwards. "We are not going to win a game like that without terrific play from a number of guys and Juan was exceptional and that is what you need to beat a really good basketball team."

Temple is now coming off two wins this week against Bowling Green (63-39) at home on Monday and at Northern Illinois (60-50) on Wednesday. Fernandez led Temple with 26 points against NIU, while 6-4 sophomore guard Ryan Brooks added 19.

Temple finished December at 7-0, marking the first time the Owls have swept the month of December since 1987-88, when they also went 7-0.

Now, they're ready to open January with a huge upset over Kansas.

"We stressed all through the week to stay focused," Brooks said after the victory over Northern Illinois. "With three games this week, each one was treated as the most important game of the year. (Now) we're very excited for the opportunity we have and the position we've put ourselves in."

Co-captain Brooks leads Temple in scoring at 15.8 points per game. He also adds 5.5 rebounds per game and has recorded 35 assists and 11 steals. Fernandez, who's scored more than 20 points in three of the last four games, averages 14.3 points and has made a team-high 32 threes and dished out a team-best 46 assists. Six-foot-nine junior center and preseason first-team A-10 selection Lavoy Allen is Temple's big gun inside, averaging a double-double with 10.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He also has a team-high 24 blocks.

Others contributing to the attack are 6-4 sophomore guard Ramone Moore (5.3 ppg), 6-9 junior forward Craig Williams (5.2 ppg, 18 threes), 6-3 senior guard and co-captain Luis Guzman (4.5 ppg, No. 2 on team with 39 assists), 6-6 freshman forward Rahlir Jefferson (4.1 ppg), and 6-11 senior center Micheal Eric (3.6 ppg).

SELF ON THE OWLS

KU coach Bill Self knows it will be a huge challenge against Temple after his Jayhawks' (12-0) lackluster performance against Belmont on Tuesday night.

"This is by far — by triple — the hardest game we have played," Self said. "First of all, Fran is a great coach. The other thing is the team is good. They remind me of [former Oklahoma State] coach Eddie Sutton because they just don't beat themselves. You have to go beat them. They have had some impressive wins. They don't panic under pressure. Villanova had them down by double figures and it didn't rattle them one bit."

"They have lost two games and they were both basically last possession games," Self added. "They play a style that will be great for us to go against because they want to muddy it up and have it be an ugly game and right now our guys definitely prefer a pretty game. So it will be good for us to go in there because they will punch us in the mouth and we have to find out if we are going to take it or if we are going to be the first (to) lay the first lick.

"Hopefully we will be more ready to go. It is sold out and it will be a raucous atmosphere."

TWINS' HOMECOMING

This game marks the homecoming for KU sophomore twins and Philadelphia natives Marcus and Markieff Morris. They starred at Prep Charter High School in Philly and grew up 1.5 miles from the Liacouras Center. The twins have played competitively twice at the Liacouras Center in the city championship their junior and senior seasons at Prep Charter. They won the 2007 city title over Simon Gratz High School.

Marcus and Markieff will have many friends and family at the game.

"It's the biggest homecoming I could ever have," Marcus Morris said.

SERIES HISTORY

This game features two of college basketball's richest traditions. KU ranks third all time with 1,981 victories, while Temple is sixth at 1,722 wins.

Kansas leads the overall series with Temple 6-3. KU won the last meeting, 71-59, in Allen Fieldhouse last season on Dec. 20, 2008. The series dates back to 1940 when the Owls beat the Jayhawks, 40-35, in Philadelphia. Five of the nine meetings have been played on neutral courts.

In last year's game in the Phog, Sherron Collins led KU with 19 points, while Cole Aldrich recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor and Brady Morningstar added 11 points each, while Taylor paced KU with eight assists and four steals.

Current Owl Lavoy Allen had 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

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