No. 13 Virginia Tech went on the road and lost to Penn State 63-62 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night. The Hokies dropped to 5-1 with the loss, while the Nittany Lions improved to 4-2.
It’s common knowledge at this point that Virginia Tech struggles to rebound consistently, which creates extra possessions for their opponents. To attempt to offset that disadvantage, the Hokies have been aggressive defensively in an effort to force turnovers and even out the possessions. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Tech was No. 35 nationally out of 353 teams in extra scoring chances per game.
However, the strategy didn’t work against Penn State. The Nittany Lions were +6 in offensive rebounding margin, while the Hokies were only +1 in turnover margin, for a net of +5 for Penn State. In the end, Penn State attempted seven more shots (57-50) and won the game by one point, despite the Hokies shooting 10-of-19 (52.6%) from three-point range. Tech did force 16 turnovers, but committed 15 of their own, including six by point guard Justin Robinson, against an imposing Penn State defense that entered the game ranked No. 42 nationally in defensive efficiency.
On the whole, it was Virginia Tech’s worst offensive performance of the season, with just nine assists for the game. They came into the contest averaging 18 assists per game.
Robinson paced the Hokies with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Kerry Blackshear, in one of his rare moments this season where he was not in foul trouble, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 13 points, while Ty Outlaw came off the bench to score 16. However, senior wing Ahmed Hill did not score, was 0-of-6 from the field, and had a rough stretch in the final seconds that helped Penn State win the game.
The Hokies had the ball with 28 seconds remaining, trailing 63-62. Penn State played good defense out of the timeout, and Justin Robinson rushed a three-pointer from well beyond the line with about 12 seconds remaining. The shot missed, but the ball rolled free to Hill on the baseline. Hill had a good look, but his mid-range shot hit the side of the backboard and Penn State grabbed the rebound, and the Hokies fouled them. Tech had two timeouts remaining, and probably should have used one once the original playcall out of the timeout did not work.
The misery didn’t end there for Hill. Penn State missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Hokies, with two timeouts remaining, could have either called a timeout or pushed the ball up the court quickly with a chance at a final shot. Hill grabbed the rebound and chose the latter, but airmailed a pass to midcourt to Penn State forward John Harrar, who was fouled with 0.7 seconds remaining. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Tech called timeout with 0.4 seconds left, but couldn’t corral the fullcourt pass and get off a final shot.
Virginia Tech is now 6-3 all-time against Penn State, with all three losses coming in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Hokies return to action this Saturday when they host Central Connecticut State in Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 5pm, approximately 1.5 hours after the football game with Marshall will end. The game can be seen online on ACC Network Extra.