The win will go a long way for the young team, who got Mike Watkins back on the court for the first time.
The game was close all night but in the end the Lions held on for a huge non-conference win versus No. 13 Virginia Tech. The win puts Penn State back on track in terms of where they would hope to be at this point in the season, holding a 4-2 record with a massive win for the team and Big Ten conference.
Penn State came out cold from the floor, 1 for 6, but with 16:23 to play in the first half, Mike Watkins entered the game. John Harrar got the start at center but Watkins entered early, making his first appearance of the season, the teams tied 3-3.
The first time Watkins came down the court he was fouled. The next trip on offense he hit a basket with two defenders hanging off him. A few minutes later Josh Reaves drove through the lane, getting a layup and foul shot to tie the game at 10.
Virginia Tech was hot from behind the arc, starting out 6 for 7, helping them to a 19-13 lead at the under-12 timeout.
Jamari Wheeler hit a much-needed 3-pointer to add to a layup he had for Penn State’s first points. The next trip down the court Rasir Bolton hit a three to tie the game at 21. Watkins had a block on one end, then Stevens a layup on the next, and the Lions led 23-21, on a 10-point run.
John Harrar made a gritty basket, backing in, sending a defender flying to the floor, to give Penn State a 30-28 advantage with 3:23 to go before the half. Myreon Jones hit a three and the lead was 35-31, but just a minute later, Pat Chambers called a timeout following two Virginia Tech deep balls. The Hokies held the lead 37-35 at the half.
Penn State’s defense came out for the second half on fire, getting three consecutive stops, gaining a 39-37 lead with 15:55 to play. Virginia Tech went on a run to take a 50-44 lead with just under 11 minutes to play.
Myreon Jones hit his third shot from behind the arc of the night to cut the lead to 3. He hit another two trips later to answer a Hokie 3-pointer. Jones’ outside shots helped match the hot outside shooting of Virginia Tech.
With 6:07 to play Josh Reaves went to the floor and the referees went to the review video to see if a technical foul was in order. A double flagrant one was called on both Reaves and Kerry Blakcshear Jr. of Virginia Tech. Myreon Jones hit a layup on the ensuing possession, giving Penn State a 56-55 lead. The game was tied at 58 at the under-4 timeout.
With 1:38 to play Penn State had the ball and a 3-point lead but a turnover gave the ball back to Virginia Tech. Justin Robinson was fouled on the possession by Jamari Wheeler. After the play the call was upgraded to a flagrant one, giving Tech the foul shots and the ball, down 3 with 1:24 to go.
Two made free throws cut the lead to one but then the Penn State defense held, getting the ball back. Myreon Jones missed a 3-pointer with a minute left but Josh Reaves got the offensive rebound, Chambers called timeout.
Jones traveled on the next possession, giving Virginia Tech the ball, down 1, with 31.1 to play. Miles Dread was fouled while getting a rebound with 4.8 seconds to play. He missed the first shot but John Harrar ended up with the ball, getting fouled with 0.7 on the clock.
Four Factor Analysis
FT Rate: 26%
Offensive rebounds were critical for the Lions, who held a 14-8 edge.
Player of the Game
Jones came into the game having scored 14 points all season long. His deep balls kept Penn State in the game while Virginia Tech was hot from outside. It was a great time for his breakout game.
- The first time Mike Watkins went to the bench, John Harrar and Trent Buttrick entered to man the low-post. Buttrick hit a three-pointer on his first offensive trip. The addition of Watkins gives the team a lot of versatility on the low-post. Not only can Pat Chambers dare to play two bigs at once, the three centers all bring different skill sets. Once Satchel Pierce comes back, it will add a 7-footer to the mix.
- Penn State looked the part of an NCAA Tournament-contending team again when lined up opposite a top-20 team. There is a lot of season remaining and the Lions will face plenty of talented teams, but Pat Chambers seems to have the necessary parts to compete.
- Myreon Jones and Trent Buttrick have both shown the ability to shoot the deep ball. The team does not have one particular sniper from the outside at this point, but there are a half-dozen players that can shoot it. It may be an asset to have multiple threats, rather than relying on one or two hot hands.
- Josh Reaves can fill out a stat sheet. Tonight unfortunately he added 6 turnovers to the box score. Reaves has a tendency to get loose with the ball and he will have to get that back under control in order not to negate some of the great defensive plays that he makes.
Penn State will travel to Maryland on Saturday to kick off the Big Ten conference schedule. The game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network at 5 p.m.