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Big night for Villanova grads in New York uniforms

PHILADELPHIA — No NBA team has more players in its lineup from the same NCAA championship team than the New York Knicks, who are getting serious production out of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart.

The group from Villanova started the game Thursday and scored 10 of the Knicks’ first 12 points against the Sixers, Hart and DiVincenzo burying three-pointers and Brunson scoring four points to stake the squad to a 12-3 lead.

It was 15-3 when Buddy Hield finally hit a triple for the Sixers.

By the end of the first quarter, Brunson had five of his 21 points, DiVincenzo three of his 16, and Hart had nine of his 18, including an end-to-end rush he finalized with a dunk and a pose to give the Knicks a 32-21 cushion. Eventually the Wildcat-led Knicks (34-32) exited with a 110-96 decision to go up another game on the Sixers (32-23), who are fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“There’s a different energy in this building, playing here in college,” said DiVicenzo, whose parents were among several family members to stop by. “A lot of memories for sure. And it’s always fun when we’re good and (the Sixers are) good.”

The Wells Fargo Center remembers this trio well, as Brunson and Hart played for Villanova when they won NCAA tournament championships in 2016 and 2018 and made DiVincenzo part of the second celebration. Brunson was in demand signing autographs pregame.

Until recently, Ryan Arcidiacono, the captain of those Wildcats title teams was part of the Knicks. Hart was photographed wearing Arcidiacono’s No. 15 Villanova jersey on his way to the visitors’ locker room.

When Brunson touched the ball, a crowd that included partisan Knicks and ‘Nova fans, there were chants of “MVP.” Everywhere you looked, on the floor or among the coaching staff, there were Wildcat alums.

“It’s awesome. It’s really cool,” DiVincenzo said. “And also as you know (the Sixers have) Reggie Redding on their staff and Doug West. So, to be able to have all those guys playing in Philly against each other it definitely makes Coach Wright proud. It’s just a tribute honestly to Coach Wright and how he’s coached us throughout the years.”

Hart played like he was turbocharged, pulling down a dozen rebounds and dishing three assists.

DiVincenzo didn’t have his usual monster game in place of Knicks scorer Julius Randle, out with a shoulder injury yet contributed three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a snuff of Sixers forward Tobias Harris. DiVincenzo certainly has a pal in Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.

“He’s been terrific. Terrific,” Thibodeau said. “I think this is probably his best stretch of basketball. He’s letting it fly. There’s no hesitation. I think of all the 50-50 shots, we need high-volume threes and he’s providing that. He’s taking 14, 15 threes a game and he’s shooting it very efficiently. He’s taking good shots. But his all-around defensive activity has been very good as well. I think he and Jalen have great chemistry together and that’s been a big plus, as well. But we needed his scoring.”

To make a long story short, the Knicks cruised to a 26-point lead before losing focus late in the third quarter. That’s when another Villanova product, newly signed Sixers guard Kyle Lowry, made his fourth basket to get the Sixers within 91-81 entering the final frame.

Surreal as that was, Lowry bounced back from a collision, leaving him with multiple stitches holding his forehead together courtesy of a massive elbow from 6-10, 254-pound Jericho Sims. The Knicks’ big man crashed down on Lowry in the first half, his arm slicing into Lowry.

With Lowry running the offense, the Sixers got within six points with 8:51 left on a breakaway layup by Kelly Oubre. But DiVincenzo answered with a three. And a few minutes later, another three, giving the Knicks a 102-90 lead with five minutes left. Then Hart buried a three. It was over except for the math. Vintage Villanova championship play.

“I think it was sweet that we hung on for the win, to be honest with you,” said DiVincenzo, from Newark, Del., and Salesianum said. “I think putting the game away like that, yes it feels good but to be able to perform on the court with my family here, yeah, that means a lot.”

Lowry played 25 strong minutes despite the head wound, collecting 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Source: Berkshire mont

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