STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Pat Chambers predicted two weeks ago that opponents would soon come to respect Myreon Jones’ sharpshooting abilities.
When the Penn State freshman finally got his chance to showcase his shot against a ranked team on Tuesday night, he lived up to his coach’s billing.
Jones scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to lead Penn State to a 63-62 upset win over No. 13 Virginia Tech on Tuesday. Jones played 22 minutes and finished the game 7-for-11 and was 4-for-8 from 3-point range.
“I told you guys,” Chambers said. “This kid’s nickname is Buckets. I knew it was only matter of time before he’d see the ball go in.”
Lamar Stevens added 14 points and eight rebounds and Rasir Bolton chipped in 11 points for the Nittany Lions (4-2), who snapped Virginia Tech’s five-game winning streak. It was Penn State’s first win over a nonconference Top 25 team at home in 20 years.
Justin Robinson led the Hokies (5-1) with 19 points while Ty Outlaw added 16. Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 14 and 13 points respectively for the Hokies who led 37-35 at halftime.
Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams was among those unfamiliar with Jones. Williams offered a quiet “no” when he was asked afterward if he thought the young guard would contribute that much with Stevens and a host of other known-shooters on the floor for Penn State.
“I mean that respectfully, too,” Williams said. “I thought they executed their plan very well. We were not great in some things we’ve been great at and that’s a credit to them.”
The Hokies, playing for the first time on the road this season, used a 9-0 run midway through the second half that gave them a 50-44 lead. But Jones led the Nittany Lions back to a 56-55 advantage with 10 points over the next five minutes.
Bolton hit his third 3-pointer of the game to give Penn State the lead for good, 61-58 lead with 3:57 to play.
Blackshear and Josh Reaves traded baskets over the next 40 seconds and those were the final baskets of the game as Penn State went scoreless over the final 3:16.
Robinson made two free throws with 1:24 left to get Virginia Tech within one, but the Hokies missed three shots and had a turnover in the final 90 seconds.
Virginia Tech led 21-13 midway through the first half after four-straight 3-pointers from Outlaw preceded a pair free throws from Blackshear Jr.
But Stevens made a layup through traffic to spark a tying run that included back-to-back 3-pointers from Jamari Wheeler and Bolton 24 seconds apart. Stevens hit another basket moments later to give Penn State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until Robinson drained back-to-back 3s to give Virginia Tech a 37-35 halftime lead.
BIG MAN’S BACK
With Reaves between free throws just 2:16 into the game, Watkins got up from his courtside seat and slid out of his warmups to hearty cheers. The forward missed the first five games of this season recovering from personal issues. A right knee injury cost him the final nine games last season.
“He changes their team,” Williams said.
Chambers announced Monday that Watkins would be a game-time decision and the big man appeared to be working his way back into shape. He played 21 minutes, made one basket and grabbed seven rebounds.
Penn State’s defensive strategy was simple enough and it helped the Nittany Lions play what Chambers called their best second half of defense in his 10-year tenure.
The Nittany Lions forced nine second-half turnovers and held the Hokies to just 10-for-26 shooting over the final 20 minutes.
“Everything was about Robinson for me,” Chambers said. “Another cliché, we wanted to cut the head off.”
Virginia Tech: Sitting at their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since the 1995-96 season, the Hokies have plenty of offensive talent and have played well enough on defense to indicate they should be able to climb higher.
Penn State: Getting Watkins back should be a boost for a team that got 20-plus plus points in six-straight games from Stevens before Tuesday to go with a bunch of complimentary scoring from freshmen Myles Dread and Bolton. With No. 24 Maryland next, the Nittany Lions will have a shot to post back-to-back wins over ranked teams for the first time since 2011. … The Nittany Lions beat then-No. 10 Temple in 1998 at home.