PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Temple wound the clock back to the 1990s with a game in its old gym, slashed ticket prices, and wore retro uniforms. Heck, there was even a big old pay phone affixed to the wall across from the Owls’ locker room.
The Owls didn’t have to rewind the videotape, though, to relive the glory days. Fran Dunphy’s bunch is doing just fine in leading Temple back to national prominence.
Ryan Brooks scored 19 points, Ramone Moore had 17 and No. 18 Temple won its sixth straight game, 63-39 over Bowling Green on Monday night.
“There’s an extreme amount of excitement,” Brooks said.
And why not?
The Owls (10-2) used runs of 13-0 in the first half and 10-0 in the second to break it open and win in their first game as a ranked team since 2001. The Owls played their first game at former home McGonigle Hall since 1997. Tickets were $9, concession prices were sliced, and the Owls wore classic uniforms.
There’s a more meaningful throwback going on with the Owls, back to the days when they were regulars in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll and the NCAA tournament.
The Owls already have a win over then-No. 3 Villanova, and undefeated No. 1 Kansas rolls into Philly on Saturday.
“We’ve put ourselves in pretty good position,” Dunphy said. “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.”
The Owls used the Dec. 13 win over Villanova to propel themselves into the Top 25 for the first time since 2001. They were ranked No. 16 in the 2001 preseason poll, dropped to 25th in the first regular-season rankings, then vanished from the rankings for eight years.
Temple is back and it wants to keep a number before its name.
“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,” Dunphy said. “We have some great games coming up against some really good basketball teams and we haven’t even started our league yet.”
Students were out on break so the Owls moved the game from the Liacouras Center to a half-block away at McGonigle where John Chaney long roamed the sideline. They packed the old gym, selling all 3,900 tickets and turned fans away. At their usual home, 4,000 would make for a dead environment. At McGonigle, the sellout crowd livened up an Owls’ rout.
“It was a great atmosphere, great to kind of see how it was back in the day,” Brooks said. “We were all looking forward to this and definitely thankful for the opportunity we got.”
The Owls are in the poll and the football team plays Tuesday in their first bowl game in 30 years. It’s a rare double-double of national success for two programs that had their share of down times this decade.
Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said the school sold their entire allotment of 5,000 tickets for the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.
Bowling Green gamely made a run at the Owls early in the second half that trimmed a 19-point lead to 10. Craig Williams and Brooks nailed 3s on consecutive possessions to spark the 10-0 spurt that put this one away.
The Owls have used one of the top defenses in the country to blow away preseason expectations. They held the Falcons to only 13 points by halftime, the fewest allowed in the first half by the Owls this season. Temple was holding opponents to a nation’s best 54.1 points per game though the first 10 games, the lowest scoring average by Owl opponents since the shot clock was instituted.
The Owls limited a team to under 45 points for the third time during their winning streak.
The Falcons missed a whopping 20 of 24 shots in the first half and were doubled-up on the boards, 22-11. The Owls barely had to put a hand in their face as the Falcons rushed down and fired up errant shot after shot.
Dee Brown led the Falcons (5-5) with 10 points.
“They play a different kind of defense,” Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. “You get the ball in a good place, but you don’t score. You don’t get many easy shots.”
Juan Fernandez, who made so many clutch shots in the upset over the Wildcats, hit a 3 that sparked a 13-0 run in the first half. He scored 11 points and the Owls finished 10 of 23 from 3-point range.