A preseason poll of Atlantic 10 coaches and media picked Temple and Duquesne to tie for fifth in the conference after they played for the title last season.
Both teams are proving them wrong in different ways.
The 19th-ranked Owls look to continue their home dominance of the Dukes on Wednesday night when the teams meet for the first time since last year’s conference championship game.
Not much was expected from either club after Temple (18-4, 6-1) captured the A-10 title with a 69-64 victory over Duquesne (11-10, 2-5) in March. Both teams saw their leading scorers graduate - the Owls’ Dionte Christmas and the Dukes’ Aaron Jackson.
Temple, though, has used the stingiest defense in the conference to contend again, trailing first-place Xavier by one-half game. The Owls are allowing 56.9 points per game and limiting opponents to 37.7 percent shooting to lead the A-10 in both departments.
Temple also has one of the best 3-point defenses in the country, limiting opponents to 27.3 percent. That should be a major factor against Duquesne - the worst 3-point shooting team in the nation at 24.7 percent.
The Dukes are in a four-way tie for 10th in the A-10, and have lost seven straight road games since a 52-50 win over Iowa on Nov. 17. They have dropped seven straight games at Temple following a 62-55 win Jan. 30, 1995.
Temple bounced back from its first conference loss with a 64-52 victory over city rival La Salle on Saturday. The Owls fell 74-64 last Wednesday at Charlotte.
“It wasn’t like that was a real let down for us by any stretch,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They’re a real good basketball team.”
Ramone Moore came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points for Temple. Moore made 7 of 11 shots to pick up the slack for starting guards Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Luis Guzman - who combined to make 7 of 26.
“We’ve gotten some really good contributions off the bench and we hope that continues,” Dunphy said. “I don’t think we can be successful without that. You need more than five guys ready to go.”
The Explorers became the third team to shoot under 30 percent against the Owls, finishing at 29.8.
“The key to the game was to play good defense and get stops,” center Michael Eric said.
Duquesne is playing its first road game since an 86-50 loss at Xavier last Thursday. The Dukes bounced back with a 74-71 win over Saint Joseph’s on Sunday.
Melquan Bolding scored 24 points and Damian Saunders added 15 and 14 boards for Duquesne,
“I’m proud of the effort we gave after not competing in our previous game,” coach Ron Everhart said. “Damian and Mel really gave us a great effort today.”
Bolding is averaging 17.3 points in his last three games. He’s played seven games since missing 13 with a fractured wrist and played his best game Sunday since returning.