PHILADELPHIA (TNS) — Perry Ellis spun to his left against the Temple defense and faced up to the basket. All around him were bodies and flying arms and tenacious defenders. Ellis pump-faked once, then again, then lofted a soft jump hook toward the front of the rim.
It bounced off. It always bounced off.
All around the Wells Fargo Center, pockets of Kansas fans sat quietly and watched in horror as another layup hit iron or simply missed completely. On a Monday night in Philadelphia, just three days before Christmas, this was Kansas’ reality:
The layups never fell. The offense was ghastly. The result was often unwatchable. No. 10 Kansas suffered a head-scratching, no-fun, unexpected beating, falling 77-52 to a Temple team whose previous best win had come at home against Louisiana Tech.
If that sounds like a mouthful, perhaps Monday’s loss was a little difficult to digest. Entering Monday, the Jayhawks had won eight straight and appeared to be on the ascent with three more non-conference games remaining. Instead, the Jayhawks took one of the most shocking losses — at least by margin — of the Bill Self era.
On Nov. 18, Kansas fell 72-40 to No. 1 Kentucky at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. This wasn’t quite that bad. But Temple, of course, is not Kentucky. In the final seconds, the Temple students prepared to rush the floor as photographers and security personnel prepared for a raucous scene.
By the end, the Jayhawks had shot just 32 percent from the floor, hitting 11 of 37 inside the three-point line. And from the start, it was a serious struggle for Kansas, which was playing the final road game of the non-conference season.
When Temple forward Jaylen Bond hammered home a one-handed dunk with 10:04 left in the first half, the Jayhawks trailed 22-10 and Self was left burning a timeout while blasting his team with a few choice words as they returned to the bench.
It would get only worse.
The Jayhawks were responsible for 13 turnovers during the first half. The offense was relegated to a litany of awkward layup attempts and three-pointers, and only some timely shooting from sophomore Frank Mason kept Kansas from the prospect of a 20-point deficit.
That deficit would come later.
To maker matters worse, Ellis, who was limited to four points while complaining of illness on Saturday against Lafayette, finished with just five points on one-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Self had begun the night by inserting freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre into the starting lineup, the first time that both highly touted freshmen had started together this year.
When the regular season tipped off 39 days ago at Allen Fieldhouse, Self had trotted out a starting lineup that included veteran forward Jamari Traylor and sophomore guard Brannen Greene. It was not out of character for Self to make highly touted freshmen earn their place. But the fact that Self began the year with Alexander and Oubre — two consensus top-10 recruits — sitting on the bench set the tone for the season.
On Monday night in Philly, the tone was set from the beginning. The Jayhawks were simply outclassed.
It was eerily reminiscent of the Jayhawks early-season blowout at the hands of Kentucky.
The Jayhawks will get a break through the week of Christmas and then return to the friendlier confines of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
They are slated to play Kent State in a 7 p.m. Dec. 30 contest and then close out their non-conference slate on Jan. 4 against UNLV.
The Jayhawks, winners of the last 10 Big 12 Conference championships, will open defense of their crown on Jan. 7 at Baylor.