Back to national prominence for the first time in eight years, the last thing Temple needs is a letdown prior to its biggest game of the season.
The No. 18 Owls look to avoid that while trying for a seventh consecutive victory when they visit struggling Northern Illinois on Wednesday night.
The most high-profiled week of the season for the Temple (10-2) program began with a 63-39 home win over Bowling Green on Monday in its first game as a ranked team since November 2001. The week ends with a visit from No. 1 Kansas on Saturday.
“There’s an extreme amount of excitement,” said Temple guard Ryan Brooks, who had a game-high 19 points against Bowling Green.
That high level of excitement will continue if Temple can avoid slipping on the road against Northern Illinois (2-7), which is 0-5 against ranked opponents since the start of the 1999-2000 season.
“We’ve put ourselves in pretty good position,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, whose team already beat then-No. 3 Villanova 75-65 on Dec. 13. “But we’re not a team that if we lose a game, we’re going to fall three spots, we’re going to fall mightily. So we really need to concentrate our efforts.
“It’s been a hard road to get where we are and it’s going to be an even harder road to get to try to stay there.”
The Owls appear to have the collective talent to do so.
Ramone Moore added 17 points off the bench and junior Lavoy Allen pulled down 13 rebounds Monday as Temple shot 47.9 percent and held Bowling Green to 27.8 percent shooting from the field.
Brooks is averaging a team-leading 15.5 points on the season and 21.0 on 52.5 percent shooting in his last three contests since being held to nine in a 64-42 win at Miami of Ohio on Dec. 8.
Temple’s defense has been a big reason for its strong start, giving up 53.8 points per game. The Owls have held opponents to 36.7 percent shooting during their six-game winning streak - their longest since a seven-game run Feb. 27-March 15, 2008.
That doesn’t bode well for a Northern Illinois squad that’s averaging 60.3 points per game despite snapping a five-game losing streak with an 87-69 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 22.
Facing the Huskies for the first time, Temple looks for a fourth straight road victory while trying to improve to 5-0 against teams from the Mid-American Conference this season.
Xavier Silas scored 19 points while Darion Anderson added 15 with 10 rebounds against Maryland-Eastern Shore as NIU posted a season high for points after failing to score more than 49 in each of its previous four games.
“This was a much-needed win,” coach Ricardo Patton told the school’s official Web site.
Silas, a transfer from Colorado who missed five games in November with a hand injury, is averaging a team-leading 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
The Huskies will face their second ranked opponent this season after losing 80-61 on the road to then-No. 23 Illinois on Nov. 17.