The sobering reminder came in the middle of Jerome Allen’s press conference following the win over UMBC:
Temple’s up next.
In the earliest Big 5 game in history, the Quakers will host the Owls’ season opener Monday night at the Palestra.
“If you play like this, you probably couldn’t play with [Temple], could you?” a reporter asked bluntly.
“I would agree with you and say that I don’t think we played our best basketball,” Allen responded. “But our objective right now is to sit back and learn from this film from tonight and go forward and prepare to win.”
Winning will be a tall task against Temple, who is a major step up in competition from the Retrievers. The Owls have beaten the Quakers in seven of their last eight meetings.
Led by former Penn coach Fran Dunphy, Temple reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2001, following a 26-win season.
And the team returns every player in its rotation, with one huge exception in forward Lavoy Allen, who graduated as the program’s all-time leading rebounder.
The Owls’ backcourt stacks up with the best in the country, though. Seniors Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Scootie Randall each averaged double-digits in scoring last season.
Temple’s first-round NCAA win over Penn State broke a string of 11-straight tournament losses by Dunphy-coached teams — a string that extended back to 1994, when Allen the player helped the Quakers upset Nebraska.
Allen the coach has lost both of his matchups with his mentor, but the Temple staff knows better than anyone the challenge Penn will present.
“They’re very well-coached, they’re disciplined,” said Temple assistant coach Shawn Trice, who played at Penn with Allen from 1993-95. “We know we’re in for a dog fight any time we play against Jerome’s team.”
Even in two double-digit wins, Dunphy added that “the Penn guys have played better than us the last two years.”
Trice pointed to then-sophomore Khalif Wyatt’s “out of nowhere” 27 points as the key to the Owls’ 73-56 win on Jan. 19, bailing out an otherwise bland Owls effort.
Monday’s matchup will reveal whether the gap between Temple and Penn is widening or narrowing. It will also mark the first of many nonconference tests for Penn, which also has games with perennial tourney teams Pittsburgh, UCLA, Villanova and Duke.
“I’m confident with these guys that we can win any game on our schedule,” Allen said, “if we play the style of basketball that we’re capable of.”
Kevin Esteves contributed reporting to this article.