Tonight the Hokies will face one their biggest non-conference challenges of the season when they travel to Penn State for the ACC/Big-Ten Challenge.
Penn State is 6-1 on the season, and they’ve made progress under head coach Pat Chambers. After making the CBI last season, they return the vast majority of their team intact and are off to a 6-1 start this year. Here are their games thus far…
61-48 W vs. Morgan State
73-54 W vs. Fordham
106-97 L vs. Charlotte (Charleston Classic)
72-71 W vs. Cornell (Charleston Classic)
63-61 W vs. USC (Charleston Classic)
78-72 W vs. Akron
88-80 W vs. Bucknell
Here are their starters…
G Shep Garner (6-1, 185, Fr.): 10.9 points, 1.9 assists
G DJ Newbill (6-4, 205, Sr.): 25 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists
F Brandon Taylor (6-2, 225, Jr.): 10.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 11 total blocks
F Ross Travis (6-6, 225, Sr.): 6.6 points, 7.4 rebounds
F Donovan Jack (6-9, 210, Jr.): 3.4 points, 3.6 rebounds
Stopping DJ Newbill is obviously the key to the game. The senior is shooting 50% from three-point range and 82% from the free throw line. He is an excellent scorer, and the Southern Miss transfer can play either guard position for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State doesn’t have a huge lineup, but Brandon Davis is stocky for his frame, and Ross Travis is a veteran senior forward who will match up with Justin Bibbs. Biibbs has to be tough on the glass against Travis. If would be helpful if Joey van Zegeren can exploit his size advantage when matched up with Donovan Tate.
Penn State brings three key players off the bench…
G Geno Thorpe (6-3, 180, So.): 9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 86.2% free throws
G John Johnson (6-1, 185, Sr.): 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds
C Jordan Dickerson (7-1, 245, Jr.): 2.1 points, 2.7 blocks
The Nittany Lions have two guards who can score off the bench, and they have the option to use Dickerson to match up with van Zegeren. If Penn State can shut down van Zegeren, they will stop Virginia Tech’s entire low post offense.
Penn State holds the overall experience edge by a wide margin. Only one freshman sees significant minutes, and overall the Nittany Lions have a lot of guys who have played major minutes in the Big Ten.
As usual for the Hokies, rebounding and turnovers will be critical. Penn State has been bad with turnovers this year, with 96 forced turnovers to go along with 96 turnovers of their own. Tech’s numbers are similar, with 92 turnovers of their own while forcing 93. If either side can gain a big advantage in turnovers, that could eventually give them the edge on the scoreboard.