LAST DEC. 13, Temple knocked off No. 8 Tennessee on North Broad Street. The game was never in doubt.

This time the opponent was more familiar, and ranked a little higher. And this one could have gone either way.

But for the second time in 366 days, the Owls were able to put a big-time notch on their resume.

It didn't seem to matter that they trailed unbeaten Villanova by 14 with 4 minutes to go in the first half. Seven minutes and change later they led by five. The Wildcats (9-1), who'd held off Saint Joseph's by eight at the Palestra on Wednesday, kept getting within two here or three there. As you figured they would. It was 66-63 with 3 minutes to go. And 75-65 when a portion of the crowd of 8,449 finally engulfed the court.

It was everything you'd want from two football powers.

The 'Cats were third in the polls. Temple (8-2), which is a one-point loss at Georgetown from being Top 25 material, had never beaten an opponent ranked this high at the Liacouras Center, which opened in 1997. Michigan State was No. 5 in 1998.

On the same Dec. 13 date in 1995, a 1-3 Temple squad took out No. 2 'Nova at the Spectrum by six.

How's that for omens?

The Owls will take on top-ranked Kansas at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 2.

"We'll think about Kansas when the day comes," said sophomore guard Juan Fernandez, who inflicted much of the carnage with a career-high 33 points on 11-for-15 shooting, 7-for-9 from the arc. "We've got [unbeaten] Seton Hall next [on the road, on Saturday]. It's one game at a time. We did a pretty good job today. We have to keep that going. It's a long season."

Since he didn't arrive from Argentina until last Christmas, this was a new experience for him.

"It's pretty much what I came here for," he said. "I want to have fun. Luckily, things went well for me. It was amazing. I didn't start well [airball]. I knew this was important. We hadn't beaten Villanova in a long time. We needed to prove where we are right now. Today was my time. I was hot. Maybe [the next time] it'll be Lavoy [Allen] or [Ryan] Brooks, whoever.

"It's the first time I've beaten a ranked team. I hope to do it more often. I tried to keep my nerves and everything aside. When you're feeling good, you can't explain it. You just throw it up thinking it's going in."

The Wildcats had won 21 of their last 22 City Series encounters, and four straight in this rivalry. The 65 were the fewest points they'd scored this season.

The loss prevented Villanova from going 10-0 for the second time under Jay Wright.

"It was another Big 5 battle," said Wright, whose team will get senior guard Reggie Redding back from his one-semester university suspension for Saturday's game against Fordham at the Meadowlands. "It's fun to be a part of, but you don't like to come out on this end of it.

"We played hard, but not well enough. They hit big shots, we didn't. Not that it was an upset. Once [Fernandez] got it going, it was hard to stop him. You're going to get your first loss sometime. We weren't going unbeaten. You learn from this. This really will be good for us."

The Owls shot 43 percent in the first half, 64 thereafter. And 50 percent from three for the full 40 minutes. 'Nova, which made only one field goal in the final 4 1/2 minutes, missed eight of its last nine from the field, including six treys.

"We were in big trouble," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "We could have really been hurting at the half.

"Occasionally, [Fernandez] does get unconscious. That's what you need."

So what does it all mean, long-term?

"I have no idea," Dunphy said. "Obviously, that's still to be determined. We'll figure it out later on. I think for now, we beat a very good basketball team. We've had a number of tests [already]. And we've answered most of them.

"We were tough, mentally and physically today. That's what we need to be."

Maybe that had something to do with the two timeouts he called within 11 seconds of each other when the Owls were down two touchdowns.

"There were some X-rated things going on," Dunphy admitted, when asked to elaborate.

Allen had 17 rebounds, one off his career best. All but three were on the defensive end. The Owls finished with eight more boards, and eight more assists on just two more field goals. The 'Cats made their last 29 free throws against St. Joe's. This time they had only 11 attempts (six by Antonio Pena). Taylor King had burned the Hawks for some big threes down the stretch. This time he didn't take a shot in 17 second-half minutes.

"Any time you lose it's tough," said 'Nova's Scottie Reynolds, who finished with team-highs of 23 points and seven rebounds. "I don't think we were overlooking them at all. I remember watching the Georgetown game on TV. We just have to focus on what we need to do."

Pena had 16 points, Corey Fisher 14. But Wright didn't get a whole lot from his bench.

Brooks had 15 of his 20 in the second half, including two tough moves to the basket that pushed the advantage to seven with 1 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Owls played the final 19 minutes without starting forward Michael Eric, who reinjured his right knee.

"I believe this is a huge confidence-booster," Brooks said. "To get it now shows what we're capable of in the future.

"[As a senior] I only had one more shot to get them. When you beat them, you're playing pretty well."

When the calendar aligns, they often do.