Tuesday evening, in front of a crowd of about 80 at the Bryce Jordan Center, VCU and Penn State played the basketball equivalent of a bored office worker flexing a rubber band.
Courtesy of two Seth Lundy free-throws, Penn State pulled out to a 68-60 lead with just 3:46 to go in the game. ESPN’s win probability chart gave Penn State a 91.6% chance to win at that point.
But the rubber band still had one more flex left in it.
A Bones Hyland 3-pointer. A Hason Ward layup. Another Ward layup. Suddenly, the Rams cut the gap down to 69-67 with just 20 seconds to play.
With the game on the line, the ball wound up in the hands of freshman Jamir Watkins. Slashing from the left side, Watkins powered through the Penn State defenders to make a difficult layup to tie the game up at 69.
On the final possession, Penn State passed the ball around the perimeter a couple of times before it would up in the hands of Myles Dread. Dread, facing a near-perfect closeout from Ward, fired a dagger 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer, giving the Nittany Lions a 72-69 win.
In the loss, 11 different VCU players scored. Senior Levi Stockard led VCU with 13 points on 5-of-7 from the floor. Much of VCU’s early scoring came from the paint, which caused Stockard to be involved early and often on the offensive end.
Hyland, who entered the game averaging 16 points, was the only other Ram in double figures. The sophomore guard tallied 11 points to go along with a team-high six rebounds. Freshman guard Ace Baldwin continued his exceptional rookie campaign, leading VCU with six assists to go along with seven points.
Junior forward Vince Williams continued his 3-point renaissance, making one step-back 3-pointer in the first half. The 3-pointer, Williams’ seventh of the season, set a new personal record for 3-pointers in a season.
Sophomore guard Tre Clark went on his own 5-0 run to give VCU a one-point lead in the second half. Clark would foul out late in the second half after scoring seven points.
Penn State’s offense was carried largely by the efforts of sophomore forward Seth Lundy. Lundy had the best game of his collegiate career on Tuesday, scoring 32 points on 57.9% shooting. His 32 points shattered Lundy’s previous career-high of 19, set last season against Iowa. Lundy also made five 3-pointers in the contest, more than the rest of the Nittany Lions combined.
But it was Dread, a junior from Detroit, Michigan, who ended up the unlikely hero of the night. The game-winning shot was Dread’s only field goal of the contest.
The win also gave Penn State interim head coach Jim Ferry his first victory against VCU. The former Duquesne head coach entered the game 0-5 against the Rams.
The story of the game was ball-handling, as both teams struggled with turnovers. VCU turned the ball over 16 times, leading to nine Penn State points, while 15 Penn State turnovers led to 11 VCU points. There were 15 total steals in the game, with Penn State’s Myreon Jones leading all players with four.
VCU kept the game close throughout, despite only leading for a little over one and a half minutes in the game. This was due to a series of back-and-forth runs throughout the game that left the outcome in doubt until the final buzzer.
With the win, Penn State improves to 2-0 on the season. The Nittany Lions play next at home at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday against Seton Hall.
The loss drops VCU to 2-2 overall. VCU’s next game will be a home contest on Saturday against Mount St. Mary’s as VCU will open the Stuart C. Siegel Center for the first time this season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance at the Siegel Center will be capped at 250 people.
After the game, head coach Mike Rhoades revealed that the Rams may without starting guard KeShawn Curry. Curry, who scored two points in the loss, exited the game in the second half with a shoulder injury. Rhoades said after the game that the extent of his injury is unknown.
In addition, the Rams will be without sophomore Jarren McAllister for the foreseeable future. Rhoades revealed postgame that McAllister, who has not played this season, has suffered a torn ACL and will have surgery. McAllister appeared in 16 games last season, averaging 2.7 points per game.