State College, PA – Virginia Tech earned a hard fought win on Saturday night, beating Penn State 66-64 in Happy Valley. Penn State star guard Talor Battle, who lit up Tech for most of the night, missed a running layup at the end of the game, and the Hokies walked away with a big road win. Tech improved to 8-1 on the season, easily the best start under Seth Greenberg. Penn State dropped to 6-4 with the loss.
Penn State had won nine straight games at home, and they were the defending NIT Champions, but the Hokies outlasted them on Saturday night. Talor Battle tied a career-high with 32 points, but he lost the game at the free throw line for the Nittany Lions. He came into the game shooting just over 80% from the charity stripe, but he was only 3-of-10 against the Hokies.
Tech had no answer for Battle for most of the game. He was 12-of-26 from the field and 5-of-11 from three-point range. He finished on a number of tough shots around the rim, and hit a big three-pointer to cut the Tech lead to one point with under 10 seconds remaining. However, as great as Battle was, his free throw shooting ultimately cost his team the game.
Virginia Tech won this game despite not hitting a field goal in the final eight minutes. Malcolm Delaney’s three-pointer with 8:12 remaining was Tech’s last field goal of the game. Delaney, Jeff Allen, Dorenzo Hudson and Erick Green combined for eight free throws down the stretch to clinch the win.
Delaney led the Hokies with 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting. He was 3-of-7 from three-point range, and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Delaney played 39 minutes, and he hit a number of big shots for Virginia Tech in the second half.
Jeff Allen had a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes. Allen was able to stay out of foul trouble until late in the game, and his presence on the court made a big difference for the Hokies.
Tech finished the game 24-of-55 (43.6%) from the field and 5-of-15 (33.3%) from three-point range. With the exception of Talor Battle, Penn State didn’t do much offensively. The Nittany Lions were 22-of-65 (33.8%) from the field and 7-of-24 (29.2%) from three-point range. The Hokies played good defense against everyone except Battle, but his poor free throw shooting gave Tech a chance to win the game, and they took advantage.
As expected, this game was tight from the opening tip to the final buzzer. No team led by more than six points, and there were eight ties. The game was tied at halftime 36-36 after Malcolm Delaney drained a left wing three-pointer with 41 seconds remaining in the first half. The game remained tied at halftime, and Delaney went on to score 18 of his 27 points in the second half. Though he didn’t score as many points as Talor Battle, Delaney turned out to be more clutch.
Like all close games, the final minutes were the difference. Delaney knocked down a three-pointer with 8:12 remaining to put Tech up 56-51. The Hokies looked like the better team at that point, but Penn State rallied and took a 59-58 lead on two free throws by forward Andrew Jones with 4:20 remaining.
Virginia Tech didn’t panic. After knocking down six free throws, the Hokies led 65-61 with 17 seconds remaining. They switched to a 1-3-1 zone for Penn State’s next possession, and Battle responded by hitting a deep three-pointer with a man in his face to cut the Tech lead to 65-64 with under 10 seconds remaining.
The Hokies lost seven games last year on the final possession, so the final moments were not easy to watch. True freshman point guard Erick Green, who finished with six points in 20 minutes, got fouled on the inbounds pass following Battle’s three-pointer. Green sank the first free throw, but missed the second, setting up Penn State’s final possession.
Trailing 66-64, Battle grabbed the rebound from Green’s miss and sprinted down the court. He drove to his left and put up a running layup. With the way Battle had been playing, it was almost a certain basket. However, J.T. Thompson appeared to barely make contact with the ball on his way up, and the basket fell just short. Dorenzo Hudson grabbed the rebound with under a second left, and the Hokies hung on for the big road win.
Virginia Tech gets the rest of the week off before returning to action next Saturday night in Cassell Coliseum against Charleston Southern. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm.