LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kevin Young had 16 points, hitting four critical free throws down the stretch, and sixth-ranked Kansas fended off pesky Temple 69-62 on Sunday for the Jayhawks’ 11th straight win.
Travis Releford added 14 points on 5 for 5 shooting, none of his baskets bigger than a 3-pointer from the wing with 34.9 seconds left. With the shot-clock winding down, Releford’s shot gave Kansas a 65-58 lead, essentially turning away its Atlantic 10 foe.
Ben McLemore added 13 points and Jeff Withey had eight points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots for the Jayhawks (12-1), who enter Big 12 play having won 30 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse and 63 in a row against non-conference opponents.
Khalif Wyatt finished with 26 points for the Owls (10-3), who nearly had their second win over a top-10 team this season. Wyatt scored 33 in an upset of then-No. 3 Syracuse on Dec. 22.
Anthony Lee and Will Cummings added 11 each for Temple, which seemed to have the recipe for winning in the Phog down pat. The Owls only committed three turnovers — though the third one late in the game proved critical — and prevented the high-flying Jayhawks from getting in transition.
After trailing the entire first half, Temple managed to build a 54-50 lead with just under 7 minutes to go. But the Jayhawks finally got going on offense, and then held on down the stretch to start 12-1 for the third time in the last four seasons.
Temple looked as if it’d be trouble before the opening tip, when the Owls were huddling after their introduction and started watching the Jayhawks’ intimidating pregame video montage.
It was little surprise that the Jayhawks raced out to a 22-10 lead by the midway point of the first half, clamping down with their intense man-to-man defense and throwing in some token press to put pressure on the Owls’ backcourt, which committed a pair of early turnovers.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy eventually got a veteran group that starts three seniors to settle down, and the result was an 8-1 spurt that got the Owls right back in the game.
Wyatt led the charge by banking in a 3-pointer, and a basket by Lee — who had eight points and five boards by halftime — forced Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout.
Self was only starting to simmer, though. He really boiled over a few minutes later, when Elijah Johnson committed his third turnover of the half. The Jayhawks’ coach slapped his hand against the video marquee at the scorer’s table so hard that it knocked out a bank of lights.
Those two early turnovers by Temple? They were their only two in the first half, and Kansas — one of the nation’s top defensive teams — failed to produce a steal in forging a 33-27 lead.
Kansas scored the first five points of the second half to push its lead to double-figures, but then Temple scored on its next nine possessions. Along the way, Wyatt outscored the Jayhawks 11-2 by himself, and his free throws with 14:13 left gave the Owls their first lead at 43-44.
Releford, the Jayhawks’ top defender, also picked up his fourth foul during the Owls’ run and spent much of the second half on the bench. That allowed Temple’s talented backcourt to keep answering every time that Kansas tried to make a charge.
Releford eventually checked back into the game, and so did the Jayhawks’ defense.
After pulling ahead 54-50, the Owls failed to score on five of their next six possessions, and Johnson’s two drives to the basket tied the game. Moments later, McLemore stepped in front of a pass from the Owls’ Cummings and went the other way for a dunk and a 58-57 lead.
Young added four consecutive free throws, and then Releford hit his big 3-pointer from the wing, allowing Self and another capacity crowd to finally start relaxing.
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