Myreon Jones Leads Penn State in Upset Over No. 13 Virginia Tech
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On a night when Penn State was outshot from 3-point land, had more turnovers than Virginia Tech and welcomed back a player in Mike Watkins to his first game of the season, the Nittany Lions pulled off a surprising upset at the Bryce Jordan Center, 63-62.
Buzz William’s Hokies entered the game ranked 13th in the country, but after tonight’s stunner, they will be sure to fall in the rankings. Virginia Tech struggled offensively, especially in the second half, posting only 25 points and a meager three 3-pointers attempted. They received all their scoring from four players, and only played seven in total on the night.
“It’s our roster. Happy for our roster, it’s been pretty good so far.” Williams said, reluctant to admit that fatigue was the reason for the inability for his team to pull out the win down the stretch.
Guards Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker received much of the hype coming into the contest, and rightfully so, scoring 19 and 13 points, respectively. Backup guard Ty Outlaw chipped in 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4 of 5 from deep for the Hokies. Forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. totaled 14 points to round out the scoring for Virginia Tech, but when the Hokies turned to him late to push them to victory, he could not deliver.
“That was the first time all season he hadn’t been in foul trouble. I think K.J. [Blackshear] is a good player,” Williams said of his forward, acknowledging the difficulty Blackshear had in trying to score over Penn State’s Lamar Stevens down the stretch.
The storyline on the Penn State side was not Stevens, however, who came into the game scoring at least 20 points in every game so far. While Stevens did chip in 14 for the Nittany Lions, the emergence of freshmen guard Myreon Jones is what had everyone’s attention. Jones scored a career high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 8 from deep to lead Penn state. Jones hadn’t scored more than four points in a game in his young career, but when Penn State head coach Pat Chambers and his squad needed him most, the wide-eyed freshmen came through.
“It was only a matter of time until what we saw tonight,” Chambers said, quickly noting how the young freshmen had been biding his time after sporadic minutes in Cancun, in addition to working as hard as anyone during practice.
Coach Chambers was not the only one to notice the impressive freshman, however. On whether he had game planned for one of the newest members to Penn State’s roster, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams was rather blunt.
“I mean this respectfully, I just go by the numbers: no.” Williams said.
Nearly as important as the emergence of Jones was the return of Mike Watkins. While only scoring two points off a baseline layup, Watkins’ presence was felt in his 21 minutes of play, snatching seven rebounds and emphatically blocking two of the Nittany Lions’ five blocks on the night.
“He changes their team, [he has a] different type of skill set than the other guys as this position, and I think he’ll for sure help their team.” Williams said, quickly recognizing the importance of Watkins to this team.
While the emergence of Jones and Watkins were key to Penn State’s victory, the second half defensive effort is what carried the Nittany Lions to victory. After a Josh Reaves layup gave Penn State a 63-60 advantage with three minutes to play, the Nittany Lions would go scoreless the rest of the way, and rely on Lamar Stevens’ post defense on Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. Penn State was able to hold, aside from two free throws by Hokie guard Justin Robinson, and no one could be more pleased than Chambers.
“To give up only 25 points in the second half is Penn State basketball,” Chambers said.
However, beating a ranked team such as Virginia Tech is a rarity around State College, and Chambers and his players are keenly aware.
“It’s huge as we continue to develop and become the best team that we can be,” Chambers said. “It gives our guys tremendous confidence in what we’re doing.”
Even on a night when Stevens may not have turned in his best performance, hiding his happiness was difficult, especially at learning at how much support he could have around him.
“I think it’s a great testament to how good of a team we can really be," Stevens said. "I think we have so much depth, and when everybody’s really clicking, we’re a big-time team.”
The Nittany Lions will have to see just how big time they are when they travel to College Park, Maryland this Saturday to take on Anthony Cowan Jr. and the rest of Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.