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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Upend No. 13 Virginia Tech 63-62

by on November 27, 2018 10:30 PM

In many ways Penn State basketball's 63-62 upset and/or survival against No. 13 ranked Virginia Tech was not a shock.

The Nittany Lions are good.

Of course a 4-2 record and losses to Bradley and DePaul might suggest otherwise on paper, but this particular Penn State team is not short on talent, it's simply still acquiring consistency.

This team is not short on players that can score in double figures, not short on ones willing to dive for a loose ball or give up their body to take a charge. Not short on players that make Penn State’s roster, top to bottom, as athletic as it has ever been.

Tuesday night was what Penn State has always wanted to be under Pat Chambers and what it has been able to pull off more and more often. Physical and scrappy, tenacious and every so slightly annoying, athletic and increasingly talented. All of that showed as the Nittany Lions hauled down 14 offensive rebounds and 36 overall, it showed as John Harrar tip-toed on the baseline to tap a ball back into play to a teammate. It showed as multiple freshmen played like seasoned vets.

It showed as Myreon Jones, who is nicknamed "buckets" finally broke out of his minor bench role and scored 18 as if everyone was expecting him to do it.

Of course, his teammates were, and Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams?

"No," he said with a short southern chuckle.

The first half was what everyone has come to expect over the years when Penn State hosts a ranked opponent, a street-fight, however cliché that might be, but no less accurate. The Nittany Lions might have work left to do to buck perception, but they are on the cutting edge of out working everyone they face. You might beat them, but they'll never roll over.

Couple #attitude that with talent, and you get a pretty good basketball team. It showed up in 2017-18 and certainly doesn't appear to be going anywhere in 2018-19. 

In more specific terms Penn State managed to survive the first half without Josh Reaves' services for 11 minutes as he was saddled with foul trouble. But the Nittany Lions persisted as they hung around to trail 37-35 at the half.

For the final 20 minutes it was more of the same, Virginia Tech landing punches, Penn State responding, the Hokies falling behind only to lean on sharpshooter Justin Robinson for a key three from deep every so often, a bucket from Ty Outlaw when need be. Even so, Virginia Tech never led by more than eight.

In his return from injury and inactivity with the team, Mike Watkins was himself, an all-Big Ten player already and given the right kind of year at least a conversational All-American in body and skill. His two points and seven rebounds as important as his presence. A thunderous block a reminder of what he can do to anyone within reach.

All of this didn't mean much though as Penn State found itself ahead by a point with 1:24 to go and the Hokies holding on to the ball. This was the game you had seen before, Penn State coming close but coming up short.

But the loss never came, the backbreaker never fell. Three missed shots by Virginia Tech and a Hokies' turnover flipped the switch on an anxious Bryce Jordan Center into a cauldron of cheers and excitement.

That last second loss wasn't coming, not this time.

Lamar Stevens would finish with 14 points and eight rebounds while Rasir Bolton and Myreon Jones poured in 29. Where four Virginia Tech players scored on Tuesday night, eight different Nittany Lions made at least a basket from the field. A team effort through and through.

In a broader sense Penn State's win wasn't a surprise because they are no longer uncommon occurrences. The Nittany Lions have beaten at least two ranked foes each of the last three years. Penn State will still have to prove its worth in the Big Ten, but these wins aren't happening by mistake. Their opponents aren't simply good teams having an off night. Penn State is just beating people, for the 12th time under Chambers, a ranked team.

"We have so much depth and I think when everybody is really clicking we're a big time team," Lamar Stevens said after the game. "No team can ever sleep on us."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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