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Villanova headlines Never Forget Tribute Classic at Prudential Center

Villanova and Delaware were spotlighted in the annual college basketball showcase at The Rock.

On Saturday, the Prudential Center hosted the fourth annual Never Forget Tribute Classic. The day was to remember those who not only lost their lives in the attacks on 9/11 but to give tribute to servicemen and servicewomen currently serving in the military.

For this year’s installment, Kansas State faced Mississippi State while the second game would see Villanova matchup against Delaware.

Mississippi State 67, Kansas State 61

After an even first half that saw the game tied at 32, both teams came out firing in the second half. While scoring was fast and furious early, it slowed considerably as Ben Howland’s Mississippi State squad went into the half-court and changed the pace of the game. Kansas State attempted to speed things up as they went up by six at the 9:56 mark of the second half. The Bulldogs went six minutes without a field goal, which did not help their cause.

The momentum started to shift after a powerful drive and slam by Iverson Molinar cut the Wildcat lead to two with 6:08 remaining in regulation. The game was tied up after two Reggie Carter free throws. Three free throws by Cartier Diarra gave Kansas State the lead back at 58-55.

Mississippi State took the lead after back-to-back baskets by D.J. Stewart Jr. and Tyson Carter to go up by three with 2:19 remaining. The Bulldogs’ defense picked up as well as they held Kansas State without a field goal for almost nine minutes. Mississippi State began dominating on the glass and points in the paint (28-14). In the end, the Wildcats could make baskets and Mississippi State capitalized as they moved to 7-2 on the season.

“I thought it was a really good comeback, the way we fought back in the first half,” said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. “Kansas State is a good team, that’s a good win for our team today moving forward. I think they’re going to win a lot of games in their conference, so we’re pleased about that.”

“I was really just happy with our defense in the second half, we held them to 27% in the second half, that’s a huge stat.”

Carter led Mississippi State with 14 points but shot just 3-of-13 from the field in the win. Kansas State was led by Diarra, who scored a game-high 20 points for Kansas State who dropped to 6-4.

Villanova 78, Delaware 70

Delaware came into the game 9-1 and showed heart as they battled Villanova early on. While they shot over 50 percent throughout the half, Villanova always did just a little more on both ends of the court. Down the stretch of the first 20 minutes, the Blue Hens went on a small run hitting four of their last five shots in the half to cut the Villanova lead to 37-32 at halftime. The shooting of Nate Darling kept them in it as he finished the half with 11 points.

“We’re a super confident team overall,” said Darling. “Every single game we come in we’re expecting to win. All of our players, I think they have a confidence level, they think they can play at the highest level. I definitely think I can play at the highest level. So, coming into these games it’s not like ‘Ooh, we’re playing the big, bad Villanova.’ It’s like we’re playing another game. And credit to them, they’re a great team. We couldn’t give it up. But we’re not going to come in here like just ‘ohhh.’ We’re going to try to win.”

Delaware was able to cut the lead to two with 16:09 remaining, but Villanova began to click on offense. Two baskets by Jermaine Samuels and a three-point play by Saddiq Bey pushed the lead to 47-39. After threes from Kevin Anderson and Nate Darling, Delaware cut the Nova’ lead down to one. Villanova (8-2) got back on track after a Collin Gillespie trey and layup from Jermaine Samuels made it 54-49 with 11:29 left.

Villanova began to pull away late in the second half. However, Delaware continued to hang around as Villanova struggled. The Wildcats turned the ball over four times over three minutes. The Blue Hens were unable to capitalize on Villanova’s turnovers. In the end, Villanova withstood every run Delaware (9-2) put up to get the victory.

Jermaine Samuels led Villanova with 18 points and Saddiq Bey added 13 points. Nate Darling scored 29 points, including six threes in the loss for Delaware.

“Hard-fought game. I give a lot of credit to Delaware and Martin having the guys really dialed in. They had a great game plan, executed well, played with great intensity,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We are an inexperienced team where every new situation and game is a learning lesson for us so we learned a lot today, and we have a lot of work to do. I think we played a good team today.”

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow writer Jason Cordner.
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