Facing short week, Temple needs to move on from Notre Dame


Facing short week, Temple needs to move on from Notre Dame

Temple head coach Matt Rhule was not pleased with his team's effort Tuesday during practice at Edberg Olson Hall.

"I don't know if our team has let it go yet and that's a scary thought," Rhule said at his weekly press conference.

The Owls dropped a heartbreaker to No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday night in front of a record crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. In many ways, it taught the nation a lot about Temple football.

Losing, 24-20, to ND proved TU belonged in the top 25 and it remained ranked after the loss, now No. 23. On Tuesday, the Owls were ranked No. 22 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

The outside world saw a Temple team, one no one imagined would host ESPN's College GameDay and play on ABC in primetime, come one play shy from bringing down Notre Dame.

But on North Broad Street, the Owls have a game in Dallas on Friday night to focus on and that's something Rhule needs his team to do fast.

"It's time to move on. It was a great football game (Saturday)," he said. "I don't know if our guys have. They haven't been through this yet.

"They haven't had the heartbreak of a really disappointing, bitter loss in quite some time. You got to move on. It didn't feel like the energy [was there]. We better get it quickly."

Friday night's game against SMU doesn't offer the same pregame hype Notre Dame did. The Mustangs are 1-7 and last in the American Athletic Conference West division.

SMU is 0-4 in the conference and enter on a six-game losing streak. Its only win came Sept. 12 at home against North Texas, a 31-13 victory.

Is it difficult for Temple to go from playing a legendary college football program to a team playing mostly freshmen and sophomores?

"It's not the same buildup," quarterback P.J. Walker said. "But that's outside. In here, it's the same buildup. We have the mentality that we're going to go out there and play our best football.

"The same we had last week, the same we had Week 1. We just have to go out there and have that mentality that we're going to play our best football this week."

To the Owls, the Mustangs remind them a lot like themselves two years ago when they finished 2-10 in Rhule's first season at TU.

In 2013, Temple was a young team and the results on the field showed. Despite winning only twice, the Owls were in most of their games; they lost five games by seven points or fewer.

The Mustangs fell, 40-31, Saturday against Tulsa. SMU, a young team that's only going to grow, now presents 7-1 Temple with a different challenge.

"They're like us my freshman year," Walker said. "They're a team that goes out there — they have nothing to lose. They're going to play their hardest and play like they have nothing to lose.

"It's not hard, it's not easy. It's something you got to play through. You have to realize you have another opportunity to win a conference game and you have to look forward to it."

Rhule acknowledged Temple's slow starts but admits the Owls are at their best when they expect tight games, when they expect each game "to go to overtime."

"Then we play every play without a lot of pressure," he said.

He also said he doesn't want his team to look at SMU as a one-win team because that's dangerous, too.

"If we're going to get caught up in this, that and the other, we don't play well," he said. "That's why I wanted to say, 'This is you guys two years ago.'

"We took a lot of teams to the brink and SMU is going to take us to the brink. We have to be willing to go there."

Running back Jahad Thomas, who is among several banged-up Owls who are questionable for the SMU game, said Friday night's game being in-conference helps get over the ND game.

At 4-0 in the AAC, Temple still has a chance to win the conference and host the conference championship game.

And getting to the conference championship game always has been the Owls' goal this season.

"If we go out there and don't play as well as we can (against SMU), this is a team that you can be beat by," Thomas said. "We definitely want to win every game.

"It's a chance that if we go out there and not play as well as we can, we can lose and possibly not make it to that conference championship game.

"This game is more important than last week and that's the way we approach it."

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.