Hicks found a way to make 8,000 fans sound like 80,000 at the fabled Palestra.
The Quakers just couldn't find a way in the final 90 seconds to make a short-lived lead stick.
Dalton Pepper scored the go-ahead layup with 45 seconds left, helping Temple recover after blowing a 15-point lead to beat Penn 78-73 on Saturday night.
"I thought we did a really good job for a large part of the game," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "We obviously, down the stretch, were settling."
And that made Penn primed for a comeback.
In the season opener for both teams, the Owls built a 63-48 lead midway through the second before the Quakers took off.
Hicks hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the second half to tie the game at 71. He turned a steal into a fastbreak layup with 1:40 left that sent most of the sellout crowd of 8,722 at the Palestra into a frenzy. Long the home to city series games, known as the Big 5, fans for both teams were going wild.
Temple's Anthony Lee tied the game on a layup and Pepper put the Owls ahead for good, 75-73, on a basket off a turnover.
"I think the team needed it a lot," Pepper said. "They made their run. We showed a lot of poise at the end. I thought it was good for the team, too."
What should have been a Temple laugher turned into a thrilling opening act for Bill Cosby's postgame stand-up act.
Dunphy improved to 7-1 against Penn, the program he coached for 17 years.
Pepper led the Owls with 19 points, Will Cummings had 18, and Lee had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Hicks scored 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting for the Quakers.
"He made some shots down the stretch," Penn coach Jerome Allen said. "It's my job to not necessarily praise him. I know he's capable of making shots and attacking the basket. It's my responsibility to not get caught up in the numbers. There's only one number that matters. We're 0-1."
Darien Nelson-Henry had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Quakers. Miles Cartwright scored 12 points.
As Penn rallied late in the second half, Cartwright bellowed from the court, "We ain't going nowhere!"
The Quakers sure didn't.
Penn turned 13 Temple turnovers into 17 points and found its scoring home inside the paint.
Nelson-Henry's layup cut it to 69-61 and Hicks followed with a fastbreak score off a defensive rebound to make it 69-63. Fran Dougherty's spin move inside made it only a four-point game.
Hicks, an All-Ivy honorable mention last season, took over down the stretch. He hit those huge 3s that gave the Quakers life. Penn showed hustle on one of them when Cartwright grabbed a long offensive rebound and kicked it to Hicks for the 3 that made it 71-68. Hicks scored on a goaltending layup for the 73-71 lead, Penn's last basket of the game, as Temple closed on the decisive 7-0 run.
"We have to come out with that same fire and take it from beyond down 15 to play with more effort," Hicks said. "We need to come out with that intensity."
The Owls are moving into the American Athletic Conference, and they're bringing some new faces along for the shift. Temple freshman Mark Williams was in the starting lineup and freshman Josh Brown earned heavy minutes in the first half.
Penn's modest early lead was obliterated when the Owls went on a 13-0 run to take control. Pepper hit a 3-pointer and scored seven points during the spurt, a hopeful sign for the Owls that the senior guard can regain his touch. Pepper shot only 32 percent from the floor and was a disappointment in his first season after transferring from West Virginia. Perhaps one full season playing in Dunphy's system will get him more comfortable as a go-to scorer.
"Nobody is rooting for Dalton Pepper more than our coaching staff and his teammates," Dunphy said. "He's earned this right and we want him to be the best player he can be."
His shooting boost was needed in an otherwise abysmal effort from the floor for the Owls. They missed 26-of-40 shots overall and 9-of-12 3-pointers.
The Owls led 42-35 at the break.