LAWRENCE, Kan. - The seniors hadn't been playing like seniors, and Kansas was suffering for it.
Elijah Johnson kept turning the ball over on offense, Kevin Young missed a couple easy shots around the rim, and Travis Releford was mired in foul trouble.
Little surprise that Temple had the sixth-ranked Jayhawks on the ropes.
But when the final minutes starting ticking way, Kansas' savvy group of veterans finally kicked it into gear. Johnson scored on consecutive drives to the basket, Young made six straight foul shots and Releford sealed the deal with a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer from the wing.
After a tense Sunday afternoon, Kansas could finally celebrate a 69-62 victory.
"We didn't do what we were supposed to do early. That came back on the seniors, I want to say," said Johnson, who had five turnovers but also nine assists. "I thought we could have gotten our team riled up. ... It wasn't the way it was supposed to be done."
It was good enough.
Jeff Withey had perhaps the most impactful game of the Jayhawks' four senior starters. He only scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he also had 11 boards and nine blocks.
Young finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Releford had 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting, none of his baskets bigger than that 3 from the wing with 34.9 seconds left.
With the shot clock winding down, Releford's pull-up jumper with a hand in his face gave Kansas a 65-58 lead, essentially wrapping up the victory.
"Altogether we couldn't do too much until the last few minutes of the game," Withey said. "Crunch time, we played like we were supposed to."
Ben McLemore added 13 points for the Jayhawks (12-1), who enter Big 12 play having won 30 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse and 63 in a row at home against non-conference opponents.
Khalif Wyatt had 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.
"They made some runs, we made some runs," he said. "It came down to the last three, four minutes and we made a couple bad decisions, a couple bad shots."
Anthony Lee and Will Cummings scored 11 apiece for Temple, which seemed to have the recipe for winning in the Phog down pat. The Owls only committed four 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.
"I thought it would be a game like this," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I was hoping we'd play better, but I thought it would be a game we'd have to play the entire 40 minutes to win."
Kansas raced out to a 22-10 lead by the midway point of the first half, clamping down with its intense man-to-man defense and throwing in some token press.
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 Self to call a timeout.
Self was only starting to simmer, though. He really boiled over a few minutes later, when Johnson committed his third turnover of the half. The coach slapped his hand against the video marquee at the scorer's table so hard that it knocked out a bank of lights.
Kansas scored the first five points of the second half to push its lead to 38-27, 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 44-43.
"He's a really good player," Dunphy said. "He has no fear."
Releford, the Jayhawks' top defender, 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 the Jayhawks picked it up on 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 Cummings and went the other way for a dunk and a 58-57 Kansas 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.
"We played at a fairly high level the last month. I kind of felt we were due a
game like this," Self said. "To win a game against an NCAA tournament team where you had to make plays down the stretch, I think it was good for all of us."