Penn State traveled to Virginia Tech on Sunday looking for a signature non-conference win to add to its NCAA Tournament resume and went home instead with another sloppy botch. The Nittany Lions' defense was shredded from every angle as the Hokies dismantled them 79-69 at Cassell Colisseum.
The Lions have now faced three BCS football conference opponents this season and have fallen to all of them by an average of 15 points. At 7-3 with a cupcake game against Maine remaining on the non-conference schedule next Tuesday, all is not lost for Penn State, but if it has any intention of playing the way it did Sunday against Big Ten opponents, it can forget about going to the NIT let alone the NCAA Tournament.
Talor Battle once again led the Lions with 26 points and five rebounds and fellow guard Tim Frazier stepped up with nine points, two assists and a rebound. Forwards David Jackson and Billy Oliver contributed 12 and nine points respectively after missing Tuesday's win over Mount St. Mary's with an injury.
- When Tim Frazier can add some offense like the nine points he did Sunday, that's always a plus for Penn State. He's not much of a scorer, averaging under five points per game entering, but he can go on small tears and gives his teammates a scoring boost from time to time. Good to see that from him today.
- Both Billy Oliver and David Jackson were back on the floor, logging regular minutes and contributing. For a thin Penn State frontcourt, this is a vital development after both were injured against Duquesne last Saturday.
- Talor Battle. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Penn State had 10 assists to Virginia Tech's 20. Not a whole lot of passing was going on out there. Lot's of one-on-one battles and lazy shots. Not the kind of stuff you see from an offense that's functioning well.
- Lions allowed the Hokies to hit 7-15 from deep on Sunday for 46%. Defense was a problem across the board, but difficulty guarding the perimeter has been a problem for much of the season and showed no signs of improving today.
- Taran Buie was 2-7 shooting...but 1-3 behind the arc. He continues to take shots that aren't his to take in this offense and it's getting a little frustrating to watch. All year, Buie has been successful attacking the bucket, when he wants to. He needs to move inside and stop trying to jack threes like he's playing H-O-R-S-E or something.
Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones had a combined eight points. Brooks didn't even attempt his first shot until the second half. That's just not going to cut it. In fairness, this was probably Brooks' first "bad" game of the season, but he can't have many if Penn State wants to go anywhere. He's a 15 point per game scorer, and the team needs every last one of them.
- Transition defense killed Penn State today. The Lions just don't get back quick enough on the break to slow teams that like to run down. Allowing easy buckets like those takes away from whatever success they're having against half court sets. We've now seen Maryland and Virginia Tech run all over Penn State, which obviously doesn't bode well moving forward.
- The play-by-play commentator for Comcast Sportsnet today couldn't stop complaining when Penn State fouled Tech down the stretch to stop the clock. Sure, the Lions were toast, but it's basketball, dude. Shut up and call the game and stop trying to tell a team when the game is over. There's a buzzer for that.