The 2001-02 Big 5 champions began their city title defense emphatically on Saturday.
And what a better time and place to start it.
The Penn men's basketball team, playing in the prime-time showcase game of the second annual Big 5 tripleheader, destroyed Temple, 71-46, in front of a sold-out Palestra crowd.
The Quakers snapped their troublesome two-game skid with the win, improving their record to 2-2. Both of their wins have been by 25 points.
"I think you're going to see them get better and better if they feed off what happened," Temple coach John Chaney said. "So I'm glad we don't have to see them anymore."
Chaney, who has taken his team to the NCAA Tournament 17 times during his 21-year Hall of Fame tenure at Temple, now finds himself at the helm of a sinking ship. The Owls fell to 0-5 with the loss.
It was clear to all those who watched the tripleheader nightcap that Penn is still the team to beat in the Big 5, despite losing a pair of less-than-pretty games to Delaware and Drexel coming into the contest.
The Quakers exploited Temple's heralded matchup zone, finding their perimeter players open behind the arc all night.
"I thought our ball movement was very good," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "And at the end of the ball movement, it's nice when you can make shots."
Penn certainly made shots. Chaney said it seemed like the Quakers connected on 70 percent of their three-point attempts, but the actual clip was 55.6 percent (15-for-27).
"There was nothing we could do," Chaney said. "We played zone, we played man, we played a triangle and 2, we played a 1-3-1. We played it all. Nothing worked."
Three Penn players made four three pointers, sharpshooters Andrew Toole and Jeff Schiffner included. The other was a little more of an unlikely hero.
Dave Klatsky, Penn's prized sixth man, was 4-for-5 from three-point land and 7-for-8 from the field, scoring a career high 18 points in 22 minutes.
"Early in warmups, I knew it was going to be one of those days," Klatsky said. "I wasn't missing anything. I got out there and felt good. Guys got me some shots and I was knocking them down."
It looked like it would be one of those days from the opening whistle, as Penn used three three-pointers and a couple of Ugonna Onyekwe baskets to take a commanding 13-0 lead before the first media timeout. The game would never be close again.
Temple senior forward Alex Wesby got his team on the scoreboard with a fallaway bucket six minutes into the game. Wesby also made the Owls' last basket, and seemingly every one in between.
The senior finished with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting. No other Temple player finished with more than 7 points.
"It all boils down to not having a good point guard," Chaney lamented. "In my system, you have to."
David Hawkins, who serves as the Owls' point guard, was 1-for-8 from the field. Temple's other guard, Maurice Collins, was 0-for-10.
While putting the clamp on Temple's guards, the Quakers did an excellent job of spreading the ball around. The team recorded an assist on all but three of its 27 field goals.
Sophomore guard Tim Begley had a game-high nine assists, including eight in the first half and three in the first three minutes.
"Temple comes at you so hard that we knew that if we could get in the gaps and kick to our shooters, we'd get some looks," Klatsky said.
Penn doesn't have any time to rest on its laurels, though.
The Quakers return to their Big 5 schedule tomorrow against a strong Villanova squad.
With a potent mix of seniors and explosive freshmen, the Wildcats have jumped out to a 4-2 record this year, including Saturday's 74-71 win over La Salle.
Last season, Penn needed overtime to squeak out a one-point victory over 'Nova. Tomorrow's matchup figures to be just as exciting.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing or what your records are," Klatsky said. "When you play a Big 5 game, everything gets thrown out the door."
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