NCAA

Matt Rhule: 'College GameDay' putting Temple football on map

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Matt Rhule: 'College GameDay' putting Temple football on map

On Saturday night, No. 21 Temple has its biggest game in school history, a primetime showdown with No. 9 Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field on national TV.

The Owls are 7-0, their best start ever, ranked for the first time since 1979, and a win over ND would strengthen their odds at getting a New Year's Six Bowl game.

But even before the game kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday on ABC, TU's football program gets a boost. ESPN's College GameDay is coming to Philadelphia on Saturday morning.

The TV show will be held at Independence Mall from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. It'll be the first of two shows in the city — GameDay comes back in December for the Army-Navy game.

"I'm really excited about recruiting," Temple head coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday. "Because at the end of the day, you know how many kids would like to come to Temple?

"They really like our coaches. They like Philly. They get to campus, they love it. And the only thing is, is it going to be big time?"

Just two years ago, the idea of Temple football being where it is now would have been dream. The Owls finished 2-10 in Rhule's first season with a handful of heartbreaking losses.

The program has come a long way under Rhule. And College GameDay's coming to Temple only verifies what Rhule has done on North Broad Street.

"We've got a history of first-round draft picks," Rhule said. "When we get to a bowl game this year, we'll have 26 college graduates on the team. We have guys finishing up their master's degree and playing football. Our kids are in over 34 different majors. You're getting a great education, you're going to be in one of the greatest cities in the world.

"You're going to go to a great campus, study whatever you want and play big-time college football. There are a lot of kids who say, 'I want to go but ...' Now I'm like, 'But what? Here it is.'"

Temple has wins over Penn State and Cincinnati. Last Thursday, the Owls pulled off an impressive comeback at East Carolina.

The Owls' success has caught the city's attention. Tuesday practices are now packed with media. There's genuine buzz around this team and Rhule knows it.

Rhule said the problem with a lot of teams that start to win is they try to capitalize in recruiting. They begin to chase the stars and get away from what got them to be successful.

"You can't forget your mission," he said. "You can't forget what you do. We only have seven wins, I'm not having a parade. I want Temple guys. I want guys I know who are good enough.

"I want guys who want to come here, who want to go to school and want to do things the right way and want to play football. You can't get caught up trying to be a hotshot program."

Still, the Notre Dame game offers Temple a "three-hour commercial," Rhule said. The Irish have a storied history, so drawing them in primetime is huge for TU.

Getting College GameDay is also an accomplishment and one that will help spread the Temple football brand across the country.

"It definitely helps out in recruiting," running back Jahad Thomas said. "Getting a lot of players in for the following years to come, but we can't focus on that now.

"We have an opponent at hand and that's Notre Dame. That's what we're focused on, we're focused on them."

Cornerback Tavon Young said he found out GameDay was coming on Instagram. Young is one of 22 players still on the team from the 2-10 season two years ago.

He's seen the program grow and acknowledged getting the TV show to come is exciting for the university, but he isn't focused on which mascot Lee Corso picks.

"We can't attend it," Young said. "We're just playing in the game. It can go bad. Everybody can just think about GameDay coming here and lose focus. I'm not thinking about that."

Temple's defensive line anchor, Matt Ioannidis, said the Owls already "kind of knew" ESPN was coming to Temple, so when the announcement came Monday it wasn't a shock.

"It's great for the school, the students and everyone who gets to experience it," Ioannidis said. "It's an honor, but at the same time, you can't really put anything into it. At the end of the day, you're going to line up, they're going to line up and play. It's not going to help you win or lose."

Ioannidis said the Owls aren't letting the national attention get to them and they're sticking to what the coaching staff is preaching to them.

This year, Rhule wants his team to embrace the moment and focus on what's next.

So on Saturday night at the Linc, Ioannidis and the Owls aren't going to change for the Irish.

"This senior class has really fought back hard to get to where we are today," Rhule said. "I couldn't be more proud of these guys. We've been doing it all year. Nothing's going to change for us."

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.