After losing three games in a row, the Virginia Tech basketball team will try
to get back on the right track on Sunday afternoon when they host Penn State.
The Hokies are 4-4 after opening the season with a tough schedule, while Penn
State is 7-2.
Virginia Tech has already lost twice as many home games as they lost all of
last year during the regular season. Losses last week to Purdue and UVA really
set the Hokies back, and they need to start a big winning streak before ACC play
The Nittany Lions are 7-2, though they’ve lost by double digits to the two
power conference teams they have faced. Penn State lost to Ole Miss 84-71, and
they were blown out 62-39 at home by Maryland. Their wins have come against #190
Lehigh, #122 St. Joseph’s, #223 Fairfield, #139 Central Connecticut State, #192
Furman, #172 Duquesne and #266 Mount St. Mary’s. The wins over Duquesne and
Mount St. Mary’s were narrow four-point wins.
Penn State is an experienced basketball team, starting four seniors and a
sophomore. They are currently #70 in the RPI, but that number is expected to
drop when the Nittany Lions open Big Ten play.
Virginia Tech knocked off this Penn State team 66-64 last season when Talor
Battle missed a contested layup at the buzzer. Battle dropped 32 points on the
Hokies before that final miss, and he is perhaps the best player in the country
that most people have never heard of.
State Starting Lineup
Battle is Penn State’s leading scorer, and despite his limited size, he can
score inside or outside. He killed the Hokies with five three-pointers last
season, and he was 12-of-26 from the field overall. The rest of Penn State’s
team made just 10 field goals combined against Tech, so Battle will definitely
need some help this time around.
Jeff Brooks is Penn State’s only other quality and consistent scorer. He is
having a solid season so far, but he scored just two points and had no rebounds
in 22 minutes of action against Virginia Tech last season. Jeff Allen had 12
points and 10 rebounds in that game, and easily won the matchup inside with
Brooks. Victor Davila also had eight points and five rebounds in that game, as
the Hokies proved to be the better team on the inside in that game.
In fact, it was Talor Battle who may have been Penn State’s best
“inside” player in that game. He not only scored from three-point
range, but from inside the paint as well. He also had nine rebounds against
Tech, and despite his small frame he is one of the best pound-for-pound
rebounders in the country.
David Jackson is a solid wing forward for Penn State, but he was injured in
the win over Duquesne and did not play in the Mount St. Mary’s game on December
7. He is Penn State’s third leading scorer. He had 12 points and seven rebounds
against Virginia Tech last season, and was the only Nittany Lion besides Talor
Battle to have any kind of production.
That is Penn State’s biggest problem … Battle needs a lot more help from
his teammates. Against Virginia Tech last year, Battle’s teammates went just
10-of-39 (25.6%) from the field. In this year’s loss to Maryland, the rest of
the team combined to shoot only 7-of-47 (14.9%) from the floor.
The Nittany Lions have plenty of size and plenty of experience, but besides
Talor Battle, and to a lesser extent James Brooks, there doesn’t appear to be
many high-major contributors on this team. If starting senior wing David Jackson
can’t go for the second consecutive game, then Penn State will really be limited
That definitely doesn’t mean an easy victory for the Hokies, however. They
struggled to beat Penn State last year, and overall they are not playing quality
basketball this year. Tech has failed to score 60 points in five of their eight
games this season, including the last four. Just like Penn State, they have only
had two consistent performers: Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.
Penn State has a very small backcourt, and either Terrell Bell or Dorenzo
Hudson will have a big size advantage on Tim Frazier. Hudson has been struggling
on the offensive end of the court for the Hokies, and he needs something to get
him going after scoring just 18 points over the last four games. Virginia Tech
relies heavily on good guard play, and until Hudson starts to get it going again
the Hokies will continue to struggle offensively. With the size that Penn State
gives up in the backcourt, somebody for the Hokies will have a good matchup.. If it’s Hudson, he needs to take advantage of it and break out of his
Virginia Tech can’t afford to lose this home game. Virginia is still expected
to be one of the bottom teams in the ACC, which gives the Hokies one bad home
loss already. They don’t need a second one at the hands of one of the worst
teams in the Big Ten. A 4-5 start would basically end any realistic hopes of an
NCAA Tournament berth.
Tip-off for the Penn State game is scheduled for 1pm, and the game will be
televised by Comcast SportsNet.