Temple bounced back from an ugly loss to the nation’s top-ranked team with the kind of defensive performance that it’s become known for this season.
It hopes for a similar effort against one of its biggest competitors for the Atlantic 10 title.
The No. 21 Owls look to win their fifth straight road game Sunday when they visit Rhode Island, which is playing its conference opener.
Temple (12-3, 1-0) has been successful this season in large part because of its defense, which is holding opponents to 55.7 points - among the top 5 in Division I - while allowing them to shoot only 37.3 percent.
The Owls opened conference play with a 73-46 win over Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, bouncing back from a 32-point loss to top-ranked Kansas on Jan. 2. The Jayhawks are the only team to score more than 70 points against Temple.
“It feels pretty good to come back after a tough loss to Kansas and get back going in the right direction,” said Ryan Brooks, who despite feeling ill before the game played 36 minutes and had 13 points against the Hawks. “We feel it’s a new season for us.”
The Owls led by 10 at the end of the first half and then held the Hawks to 28.0 percent shooting in the second half. Starting forward Lavoy Allen came off the bench after being 10 minutes late to a required team film session Tuesday. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes.
While beating a Hawks team that entered with a 4-8 record provided Temple with an easy opportunity to rebound from a loss, the Owls likely expect more of a challenge from Rhode Island, which is trying to make a case for its first NCAA tournament berth since 1999.
“I think we want more than just the Top 25,” senior guard Keith Cothran told the Rams’ official Web site. “We want more than just going to the Atlantic 10 championship game … We want to make a run at the NCAA tournament and that is what I think we’re focused on.”
Rhode Island (12-1) looked strong enough during the non-conference schedule to earn a bid, winning at Boston College and at home against Providence. It also defeated Oklahoma State at a neutral site. The Rams have won eight in a row overall, including a 68-63 victory at Akron on Tuesday.
Although Rhode Island shot 35.9 percent, it rallied from a 48-39 deficit, outscoring the Zips 17-6 during a 7:48 span to snap Akron’s six-game winning streak.
Delroy James scored 11 of his 19 points during that stretch, capping the run with a layup that gave the Rams a 56-54 lead.
Lamonte Ulmer led with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He’s one of three players averaging more than 12.0 points.
The Zips shot 38.7 - the second consecutive game Rhode Island held its opponent below 40 percent. However, it was also the second time the Rams failed to shoot better than 40 percent.
Rhode Island is looking for its first win over a ranked opponent since a 70-63 victory over No. 21 Utah on Dec. 2, 1998. It’s lost 19 straight against the Top 25.
“We are going to play that game like it is our last,” Cothran said. “That is how we approach it.”
Temple and Rhode Island have split their last eight games. The Rams have won three in a row at home in the series.