Not much went right for No. 15 Virginia Tech (4-1) on Tuesday night, losing their leg of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge to Penn State (3-1), 75-55
“They popped us right in the mouth and we didn’t respond very well. That’s a concern,” Head Coach Mike Young said. “We’ll get back after it tomorrow and try to figure some things out.”
Following an opening three-pointer from Hokies’ guard Wabissa Bede, Penn State went on a 17-0 run to start the game. Tech’s offense went cold for that six-minute stretch, turning the ball over five times and missing seven consecutive shots.
“That was my fault. After that shot, they came down and made some shots and you could tell, we started playing their game,” Bede said. “We’re not good at that style, and I just forced two quick shots right after that.”
Tech was able to make small runs through the remainder of the first half, but the closest the Hokies ever got was eight before the Nittany Lions pulled away.
The Hokies couldn’t get it figured out on the offensive end for the second consecutive game. After shooting 35% from the floor against VMI on Thursday, Tech shot just 37% against PSU and 27.3% from beyond the arc.
“I thought our shot selection was not very good at all, I’m shocked,” Young said. “It wasn’t just one person or two people. We just fell into the old trick of trying to get it all back in one shot, and that’s not the way it plays out.”
The terrible shooting was compounded by 10 first-half turnovers that put the Hokies in a hole early. Penn State didn’t turn the ball over until the 17-minute mark of the second half.
“I think that’s a microcosm of where we were defensively; we were on our heels,” Young said. “We chart deflections and contested passes, and we just simply weren’t good enough in that category and a number of categories.”
Last week, the Keydets shot poorly as well and Tech was able to escape with a seven-point win, but that wasn’t the case on Tuesday. The Nittany Lions shot 50% from the field and 12-23 from three-point range.
“We were letting them shoot right in our face for a lot of those threes and we weren’t contesting them,” Bede said. “We were kind of daring them, and they’re all great shooters.”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Penn State’s leading scorer who dominated the Hokies. Seth Lundy entered the game averaging 22.3 points per game but was held scoreless on Tuesday night in Blacksburg.
It was junior guard Izaiah Brockington who led the way for the Nittany Lions with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Brockington entered the day averaging just over 10 points in the Nittany Lions’ first three games.
“We couldn’t find a match-up for Brockington and we still can’t find one,” Young said. “I have a problem, I can only guard Tyrece Radford on one person, and that happened to be Lundy.”
The Hokies’ leading scorer, Keve Aluma, also had a down day for the first time this season. Aluma scored just eight points on 4-11 shooting and was a non-factor until midway through the second half. Despite his scoring woes, Aluma was able to pull down 12 rebounds.
Tech was led in scoring by sophomores Jalen Cone and Nahiem Alleyne. Cone drained three long-range jumpers in just his second game of the season, adding 11 points for the Hokies. Alleyne bounced back from a dreadful day against VMI and scored 10 against PSU.
It was a forgettable day all-around for the conference on the first day of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. After Miami came back against Purdue to win the first game of the event, the ACC dropped each of the next six games and is in a huge hole heading into day two.
The Hokies have a week to prepare for their next game when they’ll open conference-play against Clemson. Last year, Tech opened its ACC season with a win over the Tigers. Young hopes to repeat that feat and bounce back next Tuesday night.
“I don’t think it’s any deeper than Penn State came in here and flattened our nose and did so early,” Young said. “I’m surprised and disappointed in our response, but I’ve got good people back there, and we’ve got to work at it and knead it before we open league-play against Clemson. We’ll be better.”