Game Grades: Virginia Tech
The Penn State Nittany Lions upset the 15th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies Tuesday night 75-55.
Penn State moves to 3-1 on the year, giving the Hokies their first loss of the season with a 4-1 record. This comes in part as a matchup for the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The game had its many ups and downs, but it was a dominant performance by interim head coach Jim Ferry and his squad. How would the assets of Penn State hold up on the team’s report card tonight?
The Nittany Lions shot the lights out in Blacksburg, hitting 50% from the floor. Even more astonishing is the 52% shooting from behind the arc.
The personnel on the floor constantly had opportunities to score, including the benchwarmers in the final two minutes of the game. Guard Izaiah Brockington led all scorers with 24 points on 10 of 14 shooting.
Three other Nittany Lions notched double-digit scoring, and a multitude of players added onto the 75-point total, except leading scorer Seth Lundy. Lundy was held to zero points for the night, only attempting four total shots.
Penn State managed to fix a problem that haunted them so far: turnovers. The team managed to turn the ball over just five times, all coming in the second half.
Ferry’s crew managed to add on 15 assists, as they hustled for loose balls, but the free-throw shooting and offensive rebounding were a major concern. The Nittany Lions only made three free throws out of eight attempts and got outrebounded 15-8, which can hurt a team moving into conference play.
But overall, the offense was relentless, putting tons of pressure on the Hokies defense. It was an absolutely dominant outing for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State’s defense caused a nightmare for Hokies fans across the nation. The team forced 14 total turnovers, 10 of them coming in the first half.
Those turnovers turned into transition scoring, which boosted the team’s confidence. The Nittany Lions recorded six steals and six blocks, which makes them an elite defensive team in the nation statistically.
The passing lanes were constantly clogged, causing distress to the Virginia Tech guards, and the relentless pressure, whether using the 1-2-2 full-court press or the man-to-man defense, made it even worse. Penn State constantly switched on screens, and that eventually held the Hokies to just 37% from the floor and 27% from the perimeter.
The team did commit 17 fouls, but that is a price to pay when you assert physicality on defense. It may have been sloppier and more discombobulated nearing the 10-minute mark in the second half, but the Nittany Lions never failed to rally themselves.
The defense was a major role in the team’s upset win. Defense does win championships, and this game was a prime example of that phrase.
Jim Ferry is adding to his résumé of why he should stay the permanent head coach for this Penn State team. Ferry won his first upset game of his career, ending the Hokies 35-game win streak against non-conference opponents at home.
However, one common theme is how he lets teams try to get back into games. It was evident midway through the second half, but Ferry made the adjustments to keep the distance, which will eventually help the team in the race for a tournament bid come March.
Penn State went with the black and pink alternative uniforms on Tuesday. Most fans adore this color combination on the hardwood, and the reasoning shows.
The Nittany Lions men’s team is now 12-0 in the regular season whenever this uniform is worn, some of those wins coming against top-25 opponents. This dates all the way back to 2014 when they were first introduced.
The colors pay homage to the school’s original colors from the late 1800s. Now, the university dawns the notorious blue and white that everyone knows and loves.
Penn State looks to ride this wave of momentum as they travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines. This marks the beginning of conference play for the Nittany Lions.
Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.