Virginia Tech had a poor shooting night from the outside, and as a result lost to Penn State 66-61 on the road on Wednesday night. The Hokies had numerous open looks from the outside, but couldn’t connect, and the Nittany Lions pulled out the win. Tech drops to 2-3 on the season with the loss, while Penn State improves to 3-3.
Virginia Tech entered this game shooting 42.6% from the outside for the season. However, their top outside threats struggled, despite getting plenty of open three-point looks. A.D. Vassallo, who was shooting 50% from the outside, and Malcolm Delaney, who was hitting at a 42.9% clip, combined to go 0-of-9 from three-point range.
That poor shooting turned out to be the difference in the game. The Hokies outrebounded Penn State 36-31, and even connected on 7-of-9 free throw attempts. It was that outside shooting, or lack thereof, that eventually did them in.
Freshman forward Jeff Allen dominated the inside. He was the leading scorer and rebounder for both teams, with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He was 7-of-13 from the field, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Four of Allen’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
Cheick Diakite also did his part on the inside, with six points and seven boards in just 15 minutes. Four of his rebounds were offensive rebounds. The Hokies had a total of 14 offensive boards in this game.
Deron Washington did an outstanding defensive job on Penn State star Geary Claxton. Claxton is one of the best players in school history, and he came into this game averaging 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Against Washington, he had just eight points and five rebounds, with four turnovers.
Jamelle Cornley, who was averaging 12 points and six boards per game, didn’t fare well against Jeff Allen. He had just four points.
The Hokies lost this game with poor perimeter defense in the first half. Penn State shot 53.3% from the field in the first half and 42.9% from the outside. Tech’s defense in the second half was much better, as Penn State shot just 40% from the field and 16.7% from three-point range, but it was too little, too late.
Late in the first half, it looked like Penn State was going to run away with the game. A three-pointer from Mike Walker put the Nittany Lions up 35-22, the high point of a 10-0 run. Tech was playing poor defense and getting run out of the gym. However, they managed to cut the Penn State lead to 38-28 at halftime, giving themselves a fighting chance.
The Hokies, who feature five freshmen and one sophomore in their nine-man rotation, put up a fight in the second half, and were close to coming away with the win. Tech gradually whittled away at the lead, trailing by seven with 12:11 to go, and then by four with 10:38 remaining.
With 8:58 left in the game, freshman point guard Hank Thorns drained a three-pointer from the left wing that made the score 48-47 Penn State. Penn State answered with two points, but then Thorns found Jeff Allen on a pass from halfcourt all the way under the basket for an easy layup, making the score 50-49 Penn State with 8:24 left in the game.
Tech had a chance to take the lead with 7:41 remaining, but Malcolm Delaney’s open three-point attempt missed. It would have put the Hokies up 52-50. Instead, Penn State answered by going on an 8-2 run that put them up by seven with 5:27 left in the game.
Tech came back yet again, and trailed just 60-59 after an A.D. Vassallo layup with 1:10 remaining. Penn State answered with a runner in the lane, and then Malcolm Delaney missed another three-pointer that would have tied the game.
With 17 seconds left, Mike Walker went to the free throw line with Penn State up 64-61. Walker had a chance to ice the game, but he missed both free throws. Tech rebounded and went up the court. The Hokies could either hold for the last shot and attempt to tie the game with a three-pointer, or they could drive and get a short bucket, then foul a below average free throw shooting Penn State team.
Hank Thorns chose to drive and got an open look, but unfortunately for the Hokies, his running right-hander didn’t fall, and Penn State rebounded. David Jackson was fouled, and his two free throws with seven seconds left in the game sealed the deal.
The Hokies return to action on Saturday when they host UNC-Asheville. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm, and the game will not be televised.