Over the last few years, Temple has often risen to the challenge when meeting highly regarded teams.

Two seasons ago, the Owls scored a 77-52 win over then-ranked No. 10 Kansas and advanced to the NIT semifinals.

Last year, the Owls beat three ranked teams, including an 89-80 victory over No. 8 SMU that snapped the Mustangs' 18-game win streak, and made the NCAA tournament, losing in their opening game to Iowa.

If Temple has designs of competing in either postseason tournament the Owls have some work to do. At least there is the opportunity to play giant killer when Temple (10-9 overall, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) visits No. 20 Cincinnati (15-2, 5-0) on Wednesday.

Cincinnati was among the ranked teams Temple beat last season. The Owls won both meetings, with the second one when the Bearcats weren't ranked.

This season is already different. Cincinnati started the Owls on their current 1-5 slide when the Bearcats won at Temple, 56-50, on Dec. 28.

Temple has wins this season over two current top 10 teams, No. 7 West Virginia and No. 10 Florida State. Yet those wins carry only so much goodwill. A victory over Cincinnati would boost the Owls' NIT/NCAA resumé. A loss would continue the downward spiral.

"We beat ranked teams earlier in the year, so this is a good time for us to turn it around," said sophomore guard Shizz Alston, coming off a career-high 25-point performance in a 70-68 loss Saturday to visiting Tulsa.

The Owls have lost two in a row, and they also had a two-game losing streak before beating Florida State and West Virginia on successive days, Nov. 24-25, at the Barclays Center.

"We had two losses coming into [the Barclays Center] and won six straight, so I think this game is like the Florida State game for us," Alston said. "If we win this game, it will be huge."

Indeed it will, but Cincinnati has won eight in a row and is a stingy defensive team, allowing 60.6 points per game. The defensive leader is 6-foot-8 junior Gary Clark.

"Clark is arguably the best defensive player in the league," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He will be on a wing player, probably Obi."

Dunphy was referring to 6-10 junior Obi Enechionyia, who is averaging a team-high 14.3 points but is averaging just 10.2 points and shooting 27 percent from three-point range in the last six games, all against AAC teams.

The Owls will need a breakout game from Enechionyia and for Alston to continue his consistent play. Alston is averaging 13.3 points after seeing limited time during his freshman season.

"Even in this stretch, we have been there in most games," Alston said. "The confidence is definitely there."

@sjnard