Men’s Basketball Survives Battle Against Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams walked into the post-game press conference with a t-shirt and dress pants, complemented by his hoarse voice.
Penn State head coach Pat Chambers walked in slowly, but was upbeat.
This wasn’t just another game. It was a fight.
When it was all said and done, Penn State (7-1) stood victorious with a 61-58 win over Virginia Tech (4-3).
Both teams came away with a lot of shots on each other as well as a lot that were self-imposed.
Virginia Tech attempted ten more shots, missed ten fewer three-point attempts and had nine fewer turnovers than Penn State. The first Hokie turnover didn’t come until the latter part of the first half.
The Hokies struggled to convert from the free throw line all game, shooting only 4-for-14. Redshirt junior center Joey van Zegeren, who led the Hokies with 18 points and ten rebounds, failed to convert on any of his seven free throw attempts on the evening.
“If you shoot 29-percent from the field and 29-percent from the free throw line, typically it’s not a one possession game,” Williams said.
After a missed free throw from senior guard D.J. Newbill with four seconds left, freshman guard Malik Müeller found fellow freshman guard Ahmed Hill for a good look to tie the game up that bounced out.
Newbill led the Nittany Lions with 18 points, 13 coming in the second half after an unusually slow start.
“They were blitzing every ball screen I was in,” Newbill said. “We spaced them out in the second half a little more.”
This was the lowest scoring output for Newbill since he had 18 against Fordham in the second game of the season. The rest of the team picked up the slack for the most recent Big Ten Player of the Week.
Newbill admitted to rushing shots after the game, despite accounting for 35-percent of Penn State’s offense in the five previous games by himself.
“He needed to slow down and let the game come to him,” Chambers said. “I thought we did a much better job in the second half once we played with a little more poise.”
Even Newbill’s performance was acknowledged from Virginia Tech. After a lot of failed trap attempts and full-frontal defensive schemes, the Hokies couldn’t hold on to him for very long in the second half.
“We couldn’t guard him (Newbill) down the stretch,” Williams said.
Freshman guard Shep Garner complemented Newbill again with 13 points and two assists. It was another encouraging performance for the freshman guard that’s being noticed by all of his teammates.
“I love playing with him (Garner),” Newbill said. “He makes good decisions and he plays hard. What else could you want out of a freshman?”
But this wasn’t a game to highlight only individual performances, despite great performances from Hokie freshman guard Justin Bibbs, adding 16 points and Penn State senior forward Ross Travis grabbing 10 rebounds.
The entire rebounding effort from Penn State was a big reason Penn State was able to control tempo in the second half.
Four Nittany Lions finished with at least seven rebounds. Travis’s 10, junior center Jordan Dickerson with eight, and junior forwards Brandon Taylor and Donovan Jack with seven respectively, accounted for six fewer rebounds than Virginia Tech had as a team.
Chambers admitted to the increased efforts on the glass to help out Travis, and it proved dividends on Wednesday night.
“Everybody kills Ross (Travis), but he makes winning plays,” Chambers said. “Nobody works harder than that kid.”
Even Travis had to admit those extra efforts were appreciated as well.
“It takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders and it’s nice to have some help,” Travis said.
And when Newbill needed help on this much-anticipated game from a personal standpoint, the Nittany Lions stepped up to the challenge. Out of high school, Newbill was offered a scholarship and then had it revoked by Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams while at Marquette.
“My teammates contributed a lot,” Newbill said.
Despite the tension from the faltered recruitment process, Newbill and Williams spoke briefly after the game.
“I do think the guys wanted to play well for D.J.,” Chambers said.
The win helped propel the Big Ten to their third consecutive title in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and snapping the Nittany Lions two-game losing streak in the challenge.
Penn State will head down to Marshall on Saturday to take on the Thundering Herd.
It’s not too much longer until Big Ten season kicks in, but this Penn State team is building a lot of power behind their punch.
Ryan Stevens is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english. He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.
During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.
Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.