PHILADELPHIA -- The Temple Owls were very mean to the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday night at the Palestra. After 7 1/2 minutes had been played, the score was Temple 24, Penn 0. The Owls lost the shutout at 7:58, but almost 10 minutes were played before the Quakers scored again -- at which point the score was 33-2.

Then, as if they thought people might have considered that a fluke, the Owls began the second half by outscoring Penn, 17-4. By the time the Quakers scored their second field goal of the second half, the clock was down to 12:18 left and the score was 69-34.

Granted, this was against a Penn team that has eight freshmen and earlier this season lost to UCLA by 49. That did not change Temple's goals.

"We coach to play against the best teams," assistant coach Jim Maloney said. "If we're up by 20 and we do something wrong fundamentally, we'll correct that. We don't really play the opponent that night. We're looking down the road to playing the {North} Carolinas and the {Nevada-}Las Vegases."

Tonight, the sixth-ranked Owls (9-0) play George Washington at Smith Center. Yes, they will be playing to defeat GW, a team they beat three times last season by an average margin of just seven points. But they will not be playing against the Colonials. They will be playing against themselves.

"We can be as good as we want to be," freshman guard Mark Macon said. "It's not up to any opposing team. It's up to us. If we play against ourselves, then we can win a lot of games."

To understand what has happened to Temple's basketball program, all you have to do is look at the differing careers of Macon and senior forward Tim Perry.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound Perry arrived in 1984, relatively unheralded and unrecruited. A native of Freehold, N.J., he chose Temple over Northeastern and Boston University and, in his first season, averaged just over 20 minutes in 30 games as a backup to 6-5 forward Charles Rayne and 6-8 center Granger Hall. He totaled 68 points and 118 rebounds and was never even named Atlantic 10 Conference rookie of the week. Now, Perry is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots per game and is considered a likely first-round 1988 NBA draft pick.

The 6-5, 185-pound Macon arrived in 1987, a McDonald's high school all-America. A native of Saginaw, Mich., he considered North Carolina and Nevada-Las Vegas before choosing Temple over Georgetown. He has started in the Owls' first nine games and averaged 36 minutes per game. He has totaled 174 points and 55 rebounds and been named Atlantic 10 player of the week three times in four weeks.

"Mark certainly is an outstanding player, but he comes here already with accolades from just about everywhere," Coach John Chaney said. "Tim Perry and all the rest of the players we have are players that came in not as blue-chip players. In his first year, Timmy averaged like one rebound and one blocked shot a game. We've tried to nurture his development to the point where he's an all-America basketball player.

"But that's the kind of program that we've had {in the past}. We just haven't had the instant fix. Mark is one. Michael Harden {a high school all-America from Baton Rouge, La., who is sitting out this season because of Proposition 48} is another. Donald Hodge {a 6-11 center from Washington, D.C.'s, Coolidge High School, who committed to Temple during the early signing period} will be a third. All the other players are home grown and that makes a difference because sometimes it takes a while before fruition comes around. That's where we are right now."

Not long ago nobody had heard of center Ramon Rivas or point guard Howie Evans or swingman Mike Vreeswyk. Now, they -- along with Macon and Perry -- are the soul of a program that, in each of the last four seasons, has won at least 25 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Like Perry, Rivas -- a 6-10, 250-pound senior from Carolina, Puerto Rico -- has flourished under the tutelage of Jay Norman, a Philadelphia Public Schools teacher who works part time as one of the best big-men coaches in the country. "He was a big part of why I came here," Perry said of Norman, who starred for Temple in 1956-58 when the Owls finished third in two NCAA tournaments and one NIT and began coaching at the school in 1968.

As a freshman, Rivas averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. This season he is averaging nine points and nine rebounds.

Chaney, a former Philadelphia Public League player of the year, and Maloney, a former assistant to Lefty Driesell at Maryland, both played guard. They handle Temple's back court trio, which has a combined average of less than five turnovers per game. (As a team, the Owls average less than 10 turnovers per game.)

Vreeswyk, a 6-7 junior from Morrisville, Pa., averaged 1.5 points per game as a freshman. He averaged 14.5 last season and is averaging 17 this season.

Evans, a 6-1 senior from Philadelphia, averaged three assists per game as a freshman, five as a sophomore, six as a junior and is averaging eight this season.

"When we started, we certainly didn't put on the board that we were going to be the UCLA of the East or any of these things," Maloney said. "We've worked hard, tried to get some bigger players sizewise and imagewise and then let the winning take care of itself."

Texas-El Paso 68, Wyoming 62:

In El Paso, Tim Hardaway scored 18 points and Chris Sandle 16 last night as Texas-El Paso (12-2) rallied past fifth-ranked Wyoming (11-1) in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

Sandle held Wyoming star Fennis Dembo to nine points. Eric Leckner led the Cowboys with 22 points.

The loss by Wyoming left top-ranked Kentucky as the only unbeaten team in the top five.