Penn State raises charity funds with Lift For Life

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Penn State raises charity funds with Lift For Life

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With some bragging rights between offense and defense on the line, Friday evening in Happy Valley provided both a dose of actual competition and jovial camaraderie.

The Penn State football team -- almost three months removed from its annual spring game -- put on a show once again for loyal fans at the university's lacrosse fields.

No, not in Beaver Stadium, and this had a desired outcome more important than a final score.

The 11th annual Lift For Life -- an event dedicated to raising money for kidney cancer research -- was once again a success for the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes, an organization driven by college football players to raise awareness and funding for rare diseases.

“There’s a lot of people who everyday hear, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you,’ and someone needs to try to make a change with things like that,” Adam Gress, vice president of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter, said.

The Penn State defense beat the offense, 220-152, in a collection of events such as sand barrel races and Tug-of-War.

And even though the defensive side came out victorious, the group of 80-plus players united for an event that culminated yearlong fundraising efforts.

The final total raised should be released early next week, but going into the event the team already broke personal records.

Heading into Friday’s activities, the team total was a record-high $113,000, according to Penn State Uplifting Athletes president Eric Shrive.

Shrive, whose uncle has battled kidney cancer for the last couple of years, said his personal goal of $31,000 -- to cap out at $100,000 over his five-year tenure -- was surpassed by more than $10,000 to date.

Shrive said he’s been motivated by how rare diseases have affected his family and others.

“Sometimes they don’t find [kidney cancer] because it’s not a prominent disease. It’s not a prominent cancer. The funding’s not there. When they do find it, sometimes it’s too late,” Shrive said.

The event also marked another step for Uplifting Athletes, which has extended its reach to 21 campuses across the country and is represented by at least one school in each BCS conference.

Scott Shirley, executive director of Uplifting Athletes and a founder of the organization while playing for Penn State in 2003, said he hopes college football and helping rare diseases will one day become synonymous.

Shirley also said events like the Jack Hoffman-Nebraska touchdown run will help build recognition for Uplifting Athletes.

But when addressing the crowd on hand for Lift For Life, Shirley harped on the “exponential” development of the organization and his appreciation for its growing supporters.

“I can’t say enough about this team and the fact that every year this gets bigger and better,” Shirley said. “You guys blew me away.”

And with the one-year anniversary of the Freeh Report on Saturday, Shrive was asked about how this event goes along with the image of the football program. The offensive lineman was sincere, but direct, in rebutting those wanting to challenge the “culture” of Penn State football.

“Anytime people want to challenge the culture here at Penn State, they can look at the history of Lift For Life,” Shrive said. “Go find me another college football program that’s [raising this kind of money] while graduating 90 percent of their players ­-- one of the top graduation rates in the country -- along with winning games every year.”

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

It didn't take long for Villanova to get back to the top of the AP poll.

A week, to be exact.

The 'Cats jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in this week's AP poll, edging out No. 2 Kansas by just 16 total voting points. Villanova had 1,580 total points compared to the 1,562 total points the No. 2 Jayhawks received from voters.

In a twist, the 16-1 Jayhawks actually had more first-place votes than the 17-1 Wildcats. Kansas received 32 first-place votes compared to Villanova's 28 first-place votes. But total votes are the deciding factor, so, advatange: Wildcats.

UCLA hopped up to No. 3, Gonzaga jumped up to No. 4 and Kentucky checked in at No. 5 to round out this week's top five.

Baylor, the No. 1 team in the land last week, fell to No. 6 after it was blown out by No. 7 West Virginia.

Beginning on Dec. 5, Villanova was No. 1 for five straight weeks before falling at No. 13 Butler on Jan. 5 and seeing a 20-game win streak come to an end.

Jay Wright's Wildcats blew past No. 22 Xavier and St. John's last week, but will face another Big East test when 12-5 Seton Hall visits The Pavilion on Monday night. The last time Villanova and Seton Hall met, the Pirates upset the Wildcats at MSG in the final of last season's Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats' schedule this week is closed out with a visit from Providence on Saturday afternoon.

Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo the next Josh Hart? Jay Wright believes so

Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo the next Josh Hart? Jay Wright believes so

NEW YORK — It’s hard to imagine higher praise from Jay Wright.

“I think he can be a Josh Hart,” Wright said. “I really do.”

Donte DiVincenzo is only two months into his redshirt freshman season at Villanova, and his coach is already comparing him to one of the heroes of last year’s NCAA championship team and a 2017 National Player of the Year candidate.

That’s pretty wild stuff, but it’s hard to argue with Wright.

The last two games have been a coming out for DiVincenzo, a Wilmington, Delaware native who played high school ball at Salesianum.

After scoring 20 points and shooting 5 for 17 in Villanova’s first four Big East games, DiVincenzo was 4 for 6 for 10 points with four rebounds and three assists Tuesday in a win over No. 15 Xavier at The Pavilion. On Saturday at Madison Square Garden — with his teammates all struggling from the field — he shot 7 for 10 from the field and 3 for 5 from three-point range for a career-high 19 points to go with three rebounds and two assists in the Wildcats’ win over St. John’s (see game recap).

Hart as a freshman? 7.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 21 minutes per game.

DiVincenzo so far as a freshman? 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 23 minutes per game.

DiVincenzo has been so good in these last two wins that, even coming off the bench, he’s played the third most minutes on the team – 31 ½ per game.

Josh Hart-esque.

“I talked to him about that before,” Wright said. “Just what impresses us so much about Josh is that he’s just complete. He does everything. There’s nothing on the basketball court he doesn’t do, and I think Donte can be that kind of player, too.”

On Saturday at the Garden, Villanova got off to another slow start. Ten minutes into the game, the Wildcats were shooting 2 for 12 from the field and 1 for 7 from three-point range and trailed by six.

It sure seemed DiVincenzo sensed how badly the Wildcats needed an offensive lift, because he proceeded to make four baskets in a five-minute stretch, including two confident looks from 3.

Those 10 points keyed a 16-6 run that gave ‘Nova the lead for good.

But DiVincenzo, echoing dozens of Villanova players from years past, said he never thinks offensively.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t feel pressure offensively at all. Just focus on defending and rebounding. If the shots are falling for me, great. But if they’re not, just get back and focus on those two things.”

DiVincenzo is a freshman but did play in eight games last year before breaking his foot and sitting out the rest of the year. He did travel with the Wildcats and was on the bench during the NCAA title run.

Now, he’s the biggest surprise on the No. 3 team in the country. Villanova takes a 17-1 record and 4-1 Big East mark into a game Monday night at The Pavilion against Seton Hall, their first meeting since the Pirates beat the Wildcats in last year’s Big East title game.

Think about it.

‘Nova is down two players who Wright expected to be huge parts of this year’s team — title game hero Phil Booth, who's hurt and not expected back this year, and Amari Spellman, whom the NCAA ruled ineligible.

“We’re trying to get to a certain level of play,” Wright said. “We’re trying to figure ourselves out here. We thought we were going to be one kind of team earlier in the season and we lost a couple guys. We like our team, but we’re still trying to figure it out. We’re not a finished product yet.”

In six Big East games, DiVincenzo is averaging 8.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

No Villanova freshman has averaged 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in conference play since Lance Miller in 1990.

Overall, DiVincenzo is eighth among Big East freshmen in scoring, seventh in minutes, rebounding, assists and three-point shooting.

And trending upward.

“We’re really excited about him,” Wright said. “He’s doing everything for us. He’s playing point, he’s playing two-guard, he’s playing the three, he’s rebounding, defending, and that’s the kind of players you like to have.

“He’s only a freshman, and he works hard at it. Those two (DiVincenzo and Hart) compete against each other at practice, and he’s got the same competitiveness, so it’s exciting for us. We’re really fired up.

“And you’ve got to do it in games. We all know it’s going to come sometimes, but you’ve got to do it in games. Do it in the Garden? Against a tough aggressive team? Did it in the Xavier game? That’s big-time.”