FOR THE FIRST time in program history, three of Temple's first four games were against ranked opponents, including the opener against then-No. 1 North Carolina.

The most ambitious John Chaney - who of course would play anyone - ever got so early was playing three Top 25s in the first five. He did it twice, the last time in 1993-94, when his Owls had current assistant Aaron McKie, Eddie Jones and Rick Brunson back from a group that was coming off a Final Eight appearance.

Fran Dunphy's guys have six more games against teams that are currently in the poll, and the next one isn't until Dec. 29 at No. 24 Cincinnati. Even though they lost those first three, these are the games that supposedly make you better and really can take you where you want to go.

They give you a better handle on what you've got.

Sunday at the Liacouras Center, the Owls finally played in front of their fans. And they beat a Delaware team that's already battling injury issues as it was trying to get to 3-1 for the first time since 2003-04, 69-50.

The Owls had a week off to think about almost beating Butler and Utah in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

"We had tough practices," said senior captain Jaylen Bond. "Two and a half hours every day."

Happy gobble gobble.

"I like where we were in the final moments against Butler and Utah," said Dunphy, who'll get Fairleigh Dickinson here on Wednesday before heading to Wisconsin Saturday. "We had a chance to win. We're the kind of team that can compete at just about every level. We can get our comeuppance against any level as well. I'm a little concerned about that.

"In those two losses we were right where we needed to be. We didn't do a good job of finishing the game. We watched the film and talked about that a lot . . . Let's understand what we're doing. We need to play our best basketball."

The finishing part wasn't a problem this time. The Owls closed the first half on a 14-2 run to take a 12-point lead into the break. The closest it got after that was seven, and the Owls scored 13 of the final 17 points.

"They were a possession away against Utah, and one or two possessions away against Butler," said Blue Hens coach Monte Ross, the former Saint Joseph's assistant and Dunph's friend. "In a war of attrition, we're obviously going to lose that battle."

He was down two players coming in, having just lost Devonne Pinkard for three to six weeks with a broken right foot in the last game after he'd scored a career-best 15 in the game before that. Then, with a little over 3 minutes left in the first half, Colonial all-rookie guard Chivarsky Corbett got tied up with Temple sophomore Obi Enechionyia going after a loose ball and is gone for the season with a torn knee ligament.

"Since (the NCAA) won't cancel the season, we have to find a way to . . . overcome these obstacles," Ross said, somberly.

Enechionyia re-injured his right ankle on the play and went to the locker room but soon returned. He finished with a season-high 16 points, one off his career best, in 23 minutes. He shot 6-for-8, 4-for-6 from the arc, including three in a row that turned an eight-point game into a 15-pointer midway through the second half.

"I just felt good," he said. "I worked on my perimeter shooting in the offseason, and tonight it translated into the game. I want to be the shooter.

"I was worried (about the ankle). I'll get some treatment, see how it is tomorrow and go from there. It was almost at 100 percent. Right now I'm not sure."

Eight Owls had scored by halftime. Bond (11) and Quenton DeCosey (10) also reached double digits. The Owls had only five turnovers, two of which were on iffy offensive fouls.

UD got 17 from Cazmon Hayes and 13 from top scorer Marvin King-Davis, who shot 5-for-15. The Hens, who convert 31 percent from three, went 3-for-18.

"I was concerned (about Obi)," Dunphy said. "But he didn't stop shooting in the second half. The next step (for him) . . . is the rest of it. It's always a learning experience for guys on the young side."

And for teams that don't begin the journey with a bunch of gimmes.

Free throws

The biggest ovations came at halftime, when Temple's football team walked out on the court with the trophy it was presented on Saturday night for winning the American Athletic Conference East Division title. Coach Matt Rhule was with them, on a day when reports had him meeting with Missouri's athletic director to talk about their job vacancy. And he was all smiles, even though he still wasn't commenting.

On Twitter: @mikekerndn