Less than 48 hours separated from a tough come-from-ahead loss to Seton Hall, Jim Ferry’s Penn State squad had to quickly put the loss behind them and focus on trying to shock a 15th-ranked and undefeated Virginia Tech team (in addition to notching a win for the Big Ten in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge).
At least in the early going, it seemed like the Nittany Lions were on track to put Seton Hall behind them, utilizing a 17-0 run fueled by Izaiah Brockington and some bench scoring via Myles Dread and Sam Sessoms to jump out to a 17-3 lead. The Hokies would fight back though, cutting the PSU lead to as small as nine and giving fans that sinking feeling all over again.
Undeterred, PSU pushed the lead back further and further into double digits, thanks to forcing a total of 10 turnovers in the first half alone, and surprisingly playing well in the paint, along with some solid three-point shooting to lead by as many as 21 points before taking a 42-23 lead to the locker room.
If there was any concern about a possible repeat of last Sunday’s collapse, PSU quickly erased that by coming out absolutely on fire from three-point range, looking like Pleasantville out there. Meanwhile, John Harrar and even Trent Buttrick were having their way with easy layups down low, as the team simply ran circles around the Hokies on both ends of the court.
This allowed PSU to push their lead as high as 29 points, ultimately prevailing in a very satisfying blowout fashion and a much-needed confidence boost to prevent this young season from derailing so quickly. Big Ten play begins this coming weekend and we will truly get an idea of where this team stands in what appears to once again be a stacked conference, but for now, this was the type of win this team absolutely needed.
Four Factors Analysis
The sheer advantages in points per possession, field goal efficiency, and turnover percentage tell the story of tonight’s game. I wasn’t being hyperbolic in the game summary above in saying that PSU ran circles around the Hokies on both ends of the court.
Player of the Game
Without question, it’s Izaiah Brockington. Zay was a scoring machine who reached a new career high of 24 points, just eclipsing his 23-point performance against Iowa at the Palestra last January. He also added eight rebounds, a steal, a block, and an assist to go with the scoring effort. Zay’s performance is a testament to the sheer amount of depth PSU possesses at guard, especially considering that Seth Lundy was held scoreless tonight and yet, PSU still scored 75 points.
Honorable mentions also go out to Myreon Jones (14 points), Myles Dread (11), and Sam Sessoms (10), who shot a combined 9-for-16 from three-point range.
That Pink and Black Magic is Real and it’s Spectacular - The Nittany Lions are now 12-0 in regular season games where they’ve rocked the pink and black uniforms. The only time they lost wearing said jerseys was in the first round of the 2019 Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota.
Penn State Wanted it More - And it showed with the way PSU came out like their pants were on fire after a farting-into-a-lighter trick went horribly wrong. This team could have easily sulked and allowed Seton Hall to beat them for a second straight game but instead, got pissed off and took it all out on the Hokies, who clearly didn’t want to be out on the court by the second half.
What Interior Liability? - A major concern going into this game was whether John Harrar would be able to handle his own in the post and not allow Virginia Tech to do what they want inside the paint. Not only were the Hokies held off inside, but Harrar also had a solid seven point-six rebound performance. Trent Buttrick even got in on the action by contributing four points and three boards, himself. This is now back-to-back games where Buttrick has provided several quality minutes off the bench, which given how shallow the roster depth is up front, is something I’ll gladly take.
Largest Win Over a Ranked Team in School History - Look, Virginia Tech may end up being overrated (an ACC media day poll had them 11th out of 15 teams), but waxing a 15th-ranked team is never anything to scoff at, especially when it’s the largest win over a ranked program, ever. They will need to bring this type of swagger into Big Ten play if they hope to make it through the gauntlet with any type of postseason hopes.
The Nittany Lions now enter the Thunderdome that is Big Ten play when they travel to Michigan. That game will tip-off on Sunday, December 13th at 2:00 PM ET on BTN.