Temple didn't get its ninth win last season until the next-to-last game.
This time around, it's taken the Owls (9-4) all of 13.
There is a difference.
Six days after spanking No. 10 Kansas by 25 they beat Delaware State (5-8) at the Liacouras Center, 66-56, in the first-ever meeting. It was also their last non-conference game. On Wednesday afternoon they'll play their American opener at Connecticut (6-4), which in case anyone's forgotten is still the reigning national champion.
OK, this one was way up there on the ugly meter. Maybe it was bound to happen, coming off a win like that. Still, you probably didn't expect the Owls to be up by only four points at the first media timeout of the second half. Coach Fran Dunphy, always a stickler for details, will probably go out of his way to remind them of all the things he didn't like before they make the trip to Stoors.
Anyhow, they made their next five 3-pointers, the first four by Jesse Morgan, to create some separation. Should we mention that Morgan, their top scorer, had been held to zero up until then?
Hey, every win can't be national-headline material. But maybe this time, it was a good thing Delaware State simply just didn't have enough.
Nevertheless, it was a single-digit game with just over a minute to go.
Senior guard Amere May led the Hornets with 22 points, three above his team-high average. Morgan had 15 for the Owls, Jaylen Bond a dozen.
Whatever. It's on to the second season.
They were picked to finish sixth in the AAC, but that was two months ago. At the moment they have more wins than any of the other nine members and an RPI number (in the mid 30s) that would be NCAA Tournament-worthy if the bids were being handed out tomorrow. Of course the Selection Show is still more than two months away.
Last March the AAC sent four teams to the only postseason tourney that's relevant. And SMU was probably one of the best teams that didn't get in. The Owls didn't make it for the first time in seven years. It happens, sometimes even to the most successful of programs.
This group improved to 6-0 on North Broad, and 3-0 since it added transfer guards Morgan and Devin Coleman, a pair of Philly guys. So how's that for relevance?
This isn't the same team that lost by 23 at unbeaten Villanova on Dec. 14. Then again, few expected them to be, once they finally got whole. The only unknown seems to be how good they can become. Because every journey is mostly about growth.
The Hornets, who've only played twice at home so far, at least had big man Kendall Gray back after he missed the previous game at Oregon on the 20th. This is a team that had won at Wake Forest in late November, two nights after losing by 50 at Iona. It had also lost by 39 at Rhode Island. About the only thing these two had in common is that they'd both beaten Penn and Delaware.
The Owls led by 10 at halftime, at which point they were shooting 30 percent, 15 from the arc. Not that it mattered much, since the visitors' numbers from the field were worse. It was that kind of exercise.