LAWRENCE, Kan. - For 27 minutes, Temple had stared down the best and loudest crowd in college basketball. They were playing a team that had four senior starters and a freshman who is a likely NBA lottery pick, a program that had won 98 of its last 99 games in their jewel of a gym, Allen Fieldhouse.
Yet, the Owls had not blinked, even after trailing by double digits in each half. Their star, Khalif Wyatt, had scored 11 points in 2 minutes to give them belief. They had scored 22 points on 11 second-half possessions to get a lead. They had not committed a single turnover for those 27 minutes.
With 3 minutes to go, they had a chance to beat Kansas at Allen. They had the ball and led by point. Then, a pass was left in the air just long enough for that wondrous freshman Ben McLemore to grab it for his team's only steal of the game, bolt to the other end for a throwdown and a lead that KU was not going to give up at home.
Kansas finished every possession but one after that. Temple had no more to give.
It was Kansas, 69-62, on the scoreboard. It was way closer than that on the court.
"We don't win this if it's a neutral site game," KU coach Bill Self suggested.
Probably true. But they don't lose at Allen. It was the game Self expected from Temple.
"They're not going to get rattled," he said. "They'll be a terrific team in their league away from home because they've got great poise and they play with great pace."
The Owls made almost no shots, 19-for-63 (30.2 percent), but they defended with great heart, getting eight steals and forcing 14 turnovers. They had just four turnovers in 40 minutes playing against five on the court and 16,300 in the stands, the 188th consecutive sellout. They really could not "play" much better.
When Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked if he remembered one of his teams playing any better and not winning, he said he could not remember a specific game, but attributed the result to the opponent and, at least a bit, to the crowd.
"This is my third time here and I don't remember it being this loud," Dunphy said. "The other two were deafening. This was beyond that early in the game. But I think our kids were not troubled by that. They were not as in awe as I would have been had I been a player in the game. I was very proud of that."
No. 6 KU (12-1) had won its last five games by an average of 26 points. The Jayhawks had shot more than 50 percent in six consecutive games. Thousands of their fans were in line outside 2 hours before the game. The stands were filled when layup lines commenced.
None of it seemed to matter to Temple (10-3). They just played the game. Wyatt, with 26 points, really played the game.
There is one shot he would like back. With barely 6 minutes left and the Owls leading 54-50, Wyatt came wide open on the right wing behind the three-point line. It was early in the shot clock, but he was all alone. If he makes it, the game changes. It was a shot he had to take. All he would take back was the result. It was long off the back rim.
"I'm a shot taker," Wyatt said. "That was actually a turning point in the game."
Would he take the shot again?
"Every time," Wyatt said.
Self loved Wyatt's game
"People can say an old-school game or whatever," Self said. "I said earlier, kind of an old man's game."
Dunphy already knew what he had.
"He's a really good player," he said. "Has no fear. He knows what he's doing out there . . . It's an extraordinary game that he has. There is no speed or quickness to it, but there is a whole lot of intelligence to it."
Wyatt has made 30 consecutive free throws. The Owls, however, have not made long shots all season. Generally speaking, Allen is not the place to end shooting slumps.
The game seemed to tilt Temple's way when Travis Releford got his fourth foul with 15 minutes left. He is an ace defender and had hit a ridiculous 60 of his last 75 shots. Releford made a late icing three and did not miss a single shot.
Temple's big man Anthony Lee battled with KU's first-round draft pick Jeff Withey in the post. Lee had 11 points and seven rebounds. Withey, however, is a game changer. He had nine blocks and, as Dunphy pointed out, who knows how many alterations. And you can't practice against that, the coach said.
"Playing against him was a good challenge for me and we played pretty good defense for the most part," Lee said. "I think we took him out of his element in the post."
But all that attention freed Kevin Young (16 points, 10 rebounds) on the weak side. KU simply has a lot of answers.
So did Temple. The Owls' young point guard Will Cummings made a three with 5 minutes left that stopped a run and looked like it would really matter. That Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Scootie Randall combined to shoot 1-for-16 and the Owls actually had a chance told a tale of what they did right.
Wyatt loved the whole scene and played like it.
"This is probably the loudest," he said. "They get a layup and they go crazy . . . It was like a packed Palestra."