NCAA

Matt Rhule ignoring speculation he could leave Temple

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Matt Rhule ignoring speculation he could leave Temple

As it is with every growing college football program, the head coach hears speculation about leaving for a bigger job.

At Temple, it's no different, especially given the current circumstances.

Matt Rhule has the 7-0 Owls ranked for the first time since 1979 at No. 21. TU takes on No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday night in a nationally televised game in primetime.

On Monday, Sports Illustrated listed Rhule as a potential candidate for the job at Virginia Tech, which it claimed had an "80 percent chance of opening." He was also listed for Maryland and Virginia.

The Maryland job is open and Virginia has a "97 percent chance of opening." SI's calculation of the percentage of a job opening is speculation itself.

"I don't pay any attention to it," Rhule said Tuesday. "I don't pretend to know what life's going to bring. I don't make promises I can't keep. I'm not one of those guys. But I love it here. I really love it here. My family loves it here. I couldn't be prouder of being the head coach of Temple."

Rhule alluded to his previous time at Temple before becoming the head coach in 2013. He served on Al Golden's coaching staff from 2006 until Golden left for Miami in 2010. He also spent one year on Steve Addazio's staff in 2011 before heading to the New York Giants to coach the offensive line in 2012. When Addazio left Temple for Boston College, Rhule got the job.

"It's not like I just got here two years ago and was like, 'I'm going to come here, try to win and get out,'" Rhule said.

It's not like Rhule has heard from anyone else. Or at least he won't admit it publicly.

"Nobody's called me," Rhule said. "I'm pretty focused on this. We have a pretty good team."

On Sunday, Miami fired Golden after it lost, 58-0, to Clemson the previous day to fall to 4-3 on the season. Golden coached Miami to two bowl games and a 32-25 record in five years there, but never finished with more than nine wins in a season. To be fair, Golden entered a difficult situation at Miami.

When he was hired in 2011, Miami was in the middle of an NCAA scandal. As a result, the school restricted scholarships and kept the team from playing in bowl games. Still, Miami is a big job with hefty expectations. Two bowl games in five years — both losses — is going to put any coach on the hot seat.

"I talked with Al (on Monday). He was just fired up for us," Rhule said. "Al is an outstanding coach. Sometimes, you're at the wrong place at the wrong time or it's just not a fit. 

"I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunities Al gave me. I think Temple should be unbelievably grateful for what Al did when he came here. Al put the structure in place."

That structure has TU in a situation no one could have predicted two years ago when Rhule took over. Temple is in the conversation for a New Year's Six Bowl game this year, and has ESPN's College GameDay coming to Philadelphia Saturday. The Owls are one of three ranked American Athletic Conference teams, a first in the conference's short three-year history.

Golden came to Temple with the team an afterthought in college football. It was a losing program, but Golden built a foundation. Temple made its first bowl game since 1979 when the Golden-coached Owls went 9-4 in 2009 and lost, 30-21, to UCLA in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl.

After Golden left in 2011 — Addazio's first year — the Owls won their first bowl game since 1979. And now Rhule has the Owls bowl-eligible for the second straight season. They're getting a bowl game this year.

Rhule made sure to credit Golden for where Temple football currently stands, and he's confident Golden will land on his feet.

"Al will be a head coach again," Rhule said. "Probably at a high level."

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.