Seniors Lead Comeback, No. 6 Kansas Downs Temple, 69-62

Jan. 6, 2013

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Facing a 54-50 deficit with less than seven minutes to play, the Kansas seniors shouldered the load as Elijah Johnson, Kevin Young and Travis Releford scored 15 of KU’s final 19 points to defeat Temple, 69-62, Sunday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse. In the teams’ first meeting since 2008, Temple (10-3) had No. 6 Kansas (12-1) on the ropes, erasing an 11-point Jayhawk advantage to take the lead in a span of less than five minutes in the second half. What resulted from Temple’s added pressure was a formidable mix of veteran consistency and a pair of rookie dunks to close the game on a 19-8 run, handing KU its 30th-consecutive win in Allen Fieldhouse. After Johnson tied the game with back-to-back drives to the basket, redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore stole a pass from Temple forward Anthony Lee, converting it to the dunk that put Kansas ahead for good. Young’s perfect 6-for-6 performance from the line in the final five minutes and a three-pointer from Releford cemented the game in favor of the home team. Releford would go on to hit two more free throws before a final throw-down from McLemore sealed the final score. Young led the Jayhawks with 16 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double as a Jayhawk, while Releford and McLemore followed with 14 and 13 points, respectively. After being sidelined with foul trouble, Releford came back to finish the game a flawless 5-for-5 from the field before fouling out for the first time this season. Johnson added nine points – all of which came in the second half. Senior center Jeff Withey completed the game one block and one bucket short of a triple-double with a final line of eight points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks. Kansas finished the game shooting 44 percent (24-for-55) from the floor, snapping a six-game streak of shooting 50 percent or better, but held the Owls to a season-low 30 percent (19-for-63). Named NBC Sports National Player of the Week after helping Temple knock off then-No. 3 Syracuse, senior guard Khalif Wyatt was as good as advertised, leading the floor with 26 points, including three three-pointers. The Owls came in as the best ball-protectors in the Atlantic 10, leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. By the end of the first half the Owls committed only two turnovers to KU’s seven, however, the Jayhawks tallied 11 assists to Temple’s three. By the end of the afternoon, Temple held the turnover advantage, 14-4, but KU chalked up 17 assists to the Owls’ eight. In the first half, back-to-back layups from Wyatt tied the game, 6-6, by the first media timeout. The Jayhawks responded out of the forced pause with a 6-0 run in less than 75 seconds to prompt an Owl timeout. Thanks to six early points from Young and three from the corner by McLemore, the Jayhawks fired ahead, 15-8. The Jayhawk defenders pestered Temple through the first 20 minutes, holding them to 28 percent shooting midway through the frame as the Owls hit just five of their first 18 shots. Meanwhile, a long three-pointer by sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe marked his fourth-straight game with a three, and pushed KU to its first double-digit lead of the afternoon, 20-10. Temple responded with its first three of the game off the hands of Wyatt, followed by Lee’s hook shot to spark a 9-3 run, whittling KU’s lead to 23-19. Although Releford converted an outlet pass from Withey for a fastbreak layup, Temple continued to apply the pressure to keep the waning moments of the first half within a handful of points. A pair of free throws and a late bucket from Withey finished off the first-half scoring as Kansas took a 33-27 into halftime, making 10-straight games that the Jayhawks have led at the half. The second half started much like the first ended as both teams traded baskets until Kansas coach Bill Self called a timeout prior to the 16-minute mark. Johnson connected on his first basket of the game, a three-pointer from the wing, but Wyatt immediately made one of his own to prevent either team from breaking the game open. The fourth foul called on Releford prevented it even further. Assigned with the task of guarding Wyatt, Releford went to the bench in foul trouble with 15 minutes still to play. With Releford sidelined, Wyatt broke free for five-straight points to give Temple its first lead of the day, 42-41. Johnson found McLemore on his path to the basket for an alley-oop dunk that brought the sold-out home crowd back to life as KU trailed, 46-45. Before Kansas had been to the line once in the second half, however, Temple had made its way into the bonus after Tharpe was called for KU’s seventh team foul with a hefty 10:54 remaining. The Owls took advantage of the opportunity, making 10-of-11 halfway through the second frame to stay in front, 49-47. They’d finish 20-for-26 from the line, while KU shot 16-for-18. Just under seven minutes remained when Releford returned to the game with his team trailing, 54-50, when he and his fellow seniors kicked into clutch mode. In consecutive possessions, Johnson slashed to the basket for two-straight layups, tying the game at 54. Though he’d been quiet for much of the second half, McLemore came up big when it mattered most. With less than three minutes remaining, the rookie guard swiped a pass from Lee and sprinted down the court for a dunk. Kansas took the lead for the first time since the 8:40 mark, 58-57. With the lead secured, Young’s free throws and Releford’s three cemented the game before McLemore’s dunk wrapped it up, 69-62. UP NEXT Kansas, eight-time defending Big 12 Conference regular-season champions, will open league play when they host Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.