Before last December's Villanova-Temple game, Owls coach Fran Dunphy went out of his way to compliment the then-third-ranked Wildcats.

Well, the Owls coach is at it again.

Never mind that Temple won last season's Big Five tilt. Dunphy spoke Monday about Villanova as if it hadn't lost a game in three years.

"Villanova is so deep and so talented," said Dunphy, whose 25th-ranked Owls (9-2) will face the eighth-ranked Wildcats (10-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Pavilion. "You can't focus on one or two guys and think you will be in great shape."

Villanova does boast four double-figure scorers in its starting lineup.

Senior guard Corey Stokes averages a team-leading 15.7 points. His backcourt mates, senior Corey Fisher and sophomore Maalik Wayns, aren't far behind, averaging 15.5 and 12.4, respectively. Forward Antonio Pena scores 10.2 a game.

But the Owls are balanced, too, with junior guard Ramone Moore (14.9 points) leading a team with four players averaging 8.5 or more points. And they have a huge motivation factor that Dunphy didn't mention.

Temple wants to prove that last season's upset wasn't a fluke.

The then-unranked Owls defeated Villanova, 75-65, at the Liacouras Center. Guard Juan Fernandez made a career-best 7 of 9 three-point attempts en route to a career-high 33 points.

In arguably its biggest win last season, Temple opened the second half with an 11-0 run. And the Owls faithful chanted, "Overrated! Overrated!"

"I hope our guys are fired up," Villanova coach Jay Wright told the Associated Press.

In addition to getting Philly-area bragging rights, a win would make Temple 3-0 against Big East Conference teams. And in the process, the Owls would go to 2-0 against ranked opponents. They defeated No. 9 Georgetown, 68-65, on Dec. 9.

Temple's other victory over a Big East opponent was a 62-56, season-opening triumph over Seton Hall on Nov. 12.

In the Wildcats, they will face a team that is 3-0 against Big Five opponents this season. Villanova also has a 42-game winning streak at the Pavilion, where Temple hasn't won since 1990.

"Our kids understand that they have to play their best," Dunphy said. "And they have great respect for Villanova."

The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 43-41.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.