Penn State Basketball made a strong effort in trying to overcome an early Virginia Tech lead, but ultimately it could not get it done, losing 61-59.
After ten minutes the Hokies were up 22-6, and while the Nittany Lions were able to cut into that, they were never able to take a lead.
Virginia Tech was led by transfer forward Grant Basile who set the pace for the offended all night. He scored 17 points on 7/11 shooting from the field. More than just a good game he was key in stopping the Penn State rally from ever fully taking over by being a safety valve for the offense. Anytime the Tech offense started to stagnate they could dump the ball to Grant in the post and let him take advantage on Penn State’s small defensive front. He also added 3 blocks and a steal being a key part of the Hokie’s strong defense.
For Penn State Basketball, it was a rough outing for star Jalen Pickett. He finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists shooting 4/10 from the field with 4 turnovers. That is not a horrible game in anyway, but it is not enough for what this Penn State team needs from him to be successful. His backcourt partner, guard Cam Wynter, was even worse, finishing with just 2 points and 4 turnovers, including one on the last Nittany Lion possession of the game.
The Nittany Lions still hit 11 threes as a team, but at their lowest clip of the season, 37%. However, the real killer for the Nittany Lions was the interior defense. The defense just could not get a stop down low when it came down to crunch time.
It was not all bad for the Nittany Lions. Andrew Funk and Myles Dread continued their amazing shooting to start the year, each hitting 5 threes in 11 chances. Funk also did work inside the arc, cutting hard off over aggressive defenses to get good looks streaking to the rim. He finished the day with 21 points on 50% shooting to keep the Nittany Lions afloat and bring them back.
Although the biggest takeaway for the game might be the play of Evan Mahaffey. He ended the game playing 16 minutes, scoring 4 points and getting 5 rebounds, but really his impact was his hustle. From the moment he stepped on the floor he energized the sluggish Penn State team. He fought for 3 offensive rebounds, leaked out in transition, and fought hard against the Tech bigs while playing a small ball 5 role. Play like this will make it hard for Micah Shrewsberry to keep him off the floor going forward.
Penn State Basketball will have a chance to right the ship on Sunday at 6pm when they take on the loser of the Colorado State vs. Charleston matchup. That game is happening today, Friday the 18th, at 5pm. For information on both the teams ahead of Sunday’s matchup check out this breakdown of the remaining teams in the Charleston Classic linked here.