Temple isn't the only college basketball team in the country that plays a maddeningly effective match-up zone defense.
UMKC's Kangaroos ran the 2-3 alignment to perfection Saturday night, slowing Kansas University's running game in the Jayhawks' hard-earned 79-68 victory at Allen Fieldhouse.
"It was smart of them," KU forward Drew Gooden said after he and fellow forward Nick Collison mustered just seven shots apiece, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.
"We're a transition team and they slowed us down. The best thing they did is when we got on the high post, they collapsed on us. Then when we kicked it out, they got on the shooters quick. Some of those threes we took looked open, but they were contested.
"We got the win. It was ugly, but we got the win," added Gooden, who muscled up for 10 rebounds.
The Jayhawks hit five of 20 threes against the match-up zone for 25 percent, but did ice 22 of 34 two-point tries for a sizzling 64.7 percent. Freshman forward Wayne Simien scored three baskets and hit seven of eight free throws for 13 points as the Jayhawks canned 20 of 30 charities to UMKC's five of eight.
"I think we did a good job against the zone. Overall, it did look ugly at times," said senior guard Jeff Boschee, who hit three of 10 threes and scored 19 points.
Fellow guard Kirk Hinrich, who came close to a triple-double with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against no turnovers, missed five of six threes.
"Overall we did execute our zone plays quite well. Kirk and Aaron penetrated and the weak side was wide open. We missed some open looks," Boschee added after KU's sixth win in seven tries.
Hinrich says the Jayhawks were patient in attacking the matchup zone. KU committed 15 turnovers to UMKC's 18. The Kangaroos (5-1) entered with just 42 turnovers in five games for an NCAA-low 8.4 turnovers a game.
"They were flying at us so it made it easy to get it in the middle of the zone," Hinrich said. "I don't know how I'd grade how we did against it, but we did a pretty good job getting it in the middle."
KU coach Roy Williams was pleased with the performance except for a three-minute stretch immediately after KU built a game-high lead of 19 points (73-54) with 6:33 left.
At that point Gooden committed a turnover and Collison, Bryant Nash and Boschee missed shots.
"I felt pretty doggone good about the way we played," Williams said. "We got it to 18, 19 points, then three straight possessions got a little hungry and little selfish ourselves. All of a sudden it's back to 12 or 13 (following 7-0 UMKC run).
"Ten of 28 (shooting) the second half most of the time that'll get you beat," added Williams, whose Jayhawks hit 35.7 percent of their shots the second half after sizzling for 65.4 percent the first half in building a 42-29 halftime lead. "We were just the opposite the first half, shooting it in the basket."
The game plan?
"To try to see if we could create some tempo. They haven't been giving up many points a game and haven't been turning it over," the coach said. "We got 'em to turn it over 18 times, but didn't cash in as many as we wanted to on the other end."
That's partly because of the difficult style of play the Kangaroos' employ.
"It's a tough kind of game because they control tempo at both ends of the court," Williams said. "They'll take some time off on the offensive end and take time off when they play defense because the zone they play tends to normally make sure you don't get quick shots."
The result was never really in doubt. Up 11-10 with 12:15 left in the first half, KU used a 15-3 spurt to grab a 26-13 lead. Gooden had six points in that spurt, while Aaron Miles (three points, four assists) had two assists and Hinrich a bucket.
Simien had nine points in a row for KU in a 12-7 run that upped a 45-35 lead to a comfy 57-42 at 14:11.
The Jayhawks were able to survive a 29-point outing from guard Michael Watson, who hit 12 of 26 shots, including five of 13 threes.
He did commit seven turnovers.
"It's crazy because today I said to somebody, 'I hope he takes 26 shots because I think normally we can make sure a guy doesn't shoot a great percentage,''' Williams said. "He made some tough shots. Some in the first half we left him open. The second half we did a good job.
"He has a very quick release. The second half we did a much better job. They do a good job of isolating him. Kirk a couple of times had a hand in his face and he scored. One time he drove the baseline, somebody crossed the lane to help and he got it up over both of them."
Overall, the contest figures to provide a valuable lesson in half-court basketball for KU.
"I think we'll be a very good zone offensive team," Williams said. "We had some breakdowns tonight. Still, it's early in the year, too."
KU will next travel to Princeton on Wednesday for a 7:05 p.m. Central-time tipoff.