The Day After: Getting trounced by Temple
You all saw it, so there's no real reason to rehash the gory details of Monday nights' 77-52 KU basketball loss to Temple.
The Jayhawks were as bad in this one as they were in the loss to Kentucky in the second game of the season, and, in some areas, may even have been worse.
Clearly, very few people saw a loss like this coming, given the way the Jayhawks have played lately and shown steady growth over the course of the season. The bottom line, though, is this team is still relying on a lot of young players and many of those guys are still learning how to play at this level, how to play for Bill Self and how to fit into leadership roles.
Many believed that Wayne Selden was poised to step right into that role as the unquestioned team leader, but, even if he has shown areas of improvement in that department, he's still a work in progress there. So is Perry Ellis, who has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of complete struggle, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, all in the first 11 games.
Where Ellis and Selden go from here will be important, but clearly this team is in need of improvements in a bunch of areas and from a bunch of guys before Big 12 play gets started, which is now just two weeks away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks respond to this loss, and I'm not just talking about how they play against Kent State next Tuesday. KU was exposed in some pretty important areas in the loss to Temple and there are teams in the Big 12 that have the right mix of personnel, swagger and talent to try to replicate what the Owls did to Kansas in this one. The easy thing to say is that KU will learn from this loss, work hard over the break and keep getting better. And I'm sure all of that is true. But KU's going to have to find a way to tweak what it does on both ends of the floor to prevent nights like this from happening again. We're not talking wholesale changes or anything drastic, but they have to find easier ways to score and also need to identify the right lineup that's willing to compete defensively every possession. The guys that will do that are the guys that will get the most minutes in the coming weeks.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Plenty has been said about Frank Mason's night and the guy deserves all the credit in the world for showing up to play on a night when most of his teammates didn't. Mason scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting — including 4-of-6 from three-point range — and added three steals and two assists. The most impressive number of them all, however, might have been the minutes played. Mason was on the floor for every second of the game, which only further proves (a) how valuable he is to this team and (b) how obvious it was that he was one of the few guys who was ready to battle.
2 – His numbers did not reflect it, but I thought Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned in a second straight game where he looked much more like the Svi we saw early in the season than the Svi we saw during a recent slump. He was aggressive and willing to compete, even if his shots weren't falling either.
3 – You hate to use the old “wake-up call” line for one of the reasons to smile, but there weren't many others in this one so we'll go with it. So much has been made about KU's ability to find ways to win so far this season even on nights when it didn't play its best. That's a good trait for a team to have, but it's not a given. I think there's a chance that some of these guys — especially the younger dudes — started buying into the idea that all they had to do was show up and they'd find a way to pull out a win. That kind of belief and confidence is a good thing, so long as the team executes the first part, which is to show up. KU did not do that against Temple, and that'll be the lesson it can take away from an awful nigh heading into January.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – OK, so there were more like 30, but if we're going to narrow it down to just three, we'll begin with KU's terrible start. That first 10 minutes (and maybe even the first 3-5) really set the tone for the entire night. The Jayhawks looked disinterested, lazy, sluggish and, simply put, like they didn't want to be there. Off nights are going to happen. But with a roster this deep, talented and versatile I didn't think we'd see a night where almost every player in crimson and blue failed to bring it. Monday was one of those nights and the Jayhawks got what they deserved because of it.
2 – While that start was a tone-setter, KU's defense was what cost them most and eliminated any chance KU had to stay in the game. That was particularly true in the first half, when Temple's guards drove to the rim at will and the Owls' crisp ball movement led to open shot after open shot. Long story short — Temple got whatever it wanted on offense and KU looked powerless to stop it.
3 – Cliff Alexander continues to be a work in progress and, in some ways, may even have taken a step or two backwards these past couple of weeks. Early in the season, Alexander was getting by on energy, effort and raw ability, but, today, he seems to be over-thinking things and looks flat-out lost at times, particularly on defense. One sequence Monday night showed that better than any other. With KU still hanging around early in the second half, Alexander fired a 16-foot jumper early in the shot clock. It's not a terrible shot, and it's one he can make, but there's no need to take it when he did. On the very next possession, Temple ran a high ball screen and Alexander left his man to go double team, which allowed the guy he was guarding to slip effortlessly to the rim, where he received an easy pass and finished a bunny to add to Temple's lead. Even after starting, Alexander only played 17 minutes, took just the one shot and scored 2 points. The big freshman needs winter break to arrive as much as anybody.
One for the road
KU's beatdown at the hands of Temple on Monday:
• Snapped an eight-game winning streak, which was KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made Kansas 9-2 or better for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.
• Dropped KU’s record away from Allen Fieldhouse to 5-2 this season and 1-1 in true road games.
• Made Kansas 8-4 all-time versus Temple and 60-17 against current members of the American Athletic Conference.
• Moved Self to 334-71 while at Kansas, 541-176 overall and 4-1 all-time against Temple.
• Made KU 2,135-824 all-time.
After going their separate ways for Christmas, the Jayhawks will return to action at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when they'll take on Kent State at 7 p.m.