Penn State Basketball Weekly Preview: Ranked Virginia Tech, Michigan Headline Week Ahead
Last week wasn’t the easiest for Penn State fans to deal with after a near-loss against VCU and an upsetting loss to Seton Hall.
In the VCU game, the Nittany Lions were able to play great defense on star Nah’Shon Hyland, who scored only 11 points while making just four shots in the game. Seth Lundy showed he was ready to increase his role, as he posted a career-high 32 points.
Still, the game was close, and it wasn’t decided until the final seconds when Myles Dread hit his first shot of the game, which ended up being the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Nittany Lions a 72-69 win.
The major blow to Penn State last week was blowing a 19-point lead in the first half and a five-point lead in the final two minutes in a loss to Seton Hall. The Nittany Lions couldn’t stop Sandro Mamukelashvili, who put up 30 points, scoring most of them during the Pirates’ comeback in the second half and overtime.
The Nittany Lions just couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, as John Harrar, Izaiah Brockington and Sam Sessoms all fouled out. These fouls were key in allowing the Pirates to shoot a staggering 35 free-throw attempts. Once the game went to overtime, the Pirates took over, as they escaped the BJC with a 98-92 win.
This week, the road only gets tougher for the Nittany Lions, as they face No. 15 Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday at 9 p.m. The Hokies come in undefeated with four wins, including an overtime victory against No. 8 Villanova in November. They’ll be looking to avenge their one-point loss to the Nittany Lions back in 2018 when they were ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll.
Despite Virginia Tech shooting just 35% from the field and less than 15% on 3’s in their last game against VMI, redshirt junior forward Keve Aluma posted a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Redshirt junior forward Justyn Mutts scored 10 points, grabbed nine boards and dished a career-high six assists. With both players listed at 6 feet 9 inches, the Nittany Lions defense will have to put up a fight to contain the two.
Next on the calendar, Penn State will head to Ann Arbor to begin conference play against Michigan on Sunday at 2 p.m. While they’re not currently ranked, the 4-0 Wolverines missed the 25th spot in the AP Poll by less than 20 votes. Forward Isaiah Livers in his fourth collegiate season is leading the team in points per game at 16.3. Senior guard Chaundee Brown is shooting 44% from beyond the arc, and sophomore Franz Wagner, younger brother of Moe Wagner, is effective both inside and around the perimeter at 9.3 points and 7.5 boards per game.
Penn State does have the defensive advantage on the perimeter over Michigan. The Nittany Lions average over 10 steals per game to about four for the Wolverines. But that’s their only glaring edge, as the team stats in other categories are relatively similar for both teams. Some interceptions and picked pockets during key situations against Big Blue scorers could make a huge difference Sunday afternoon.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.