UNIVERSITY PARK - In hashing out Penn State's 66-64 loss to Virginia Tech at the Jordan Center Saturday night, it would be easy to focus on Nittany Lion Talor Battle's missed shot in the lane at the buzzer.
It did, after all, prevent the spirited affair from heading to overtime.
But the events leading up to the errant shot had much more to do with the outcome than Battle's miscue. In fact, given that he tied a career-high with 32 points to go along with nine rebounds, he was really the only reason Penn State had any chance to win against the now 8-1 Hokies.
"I thought he had a tremendous night," Lion coach Ed DeChellis said. "He kept us in the thing the whole time. He made basketball plays the whole 40 minutes, and that (the late miss) was a tough one."
Added Virginia Tech mentor Seth Greenberg, who was asked about the "good" defensive job his guards did on Battle, "Imagine if we did a bad job, the guy would have had 50."
There were actually three things that conspired to doom Penn State in this game. The first was that, beyond Battle and forward D.J. Jackson (12 points), no one else on the team made more than one bucket. Battle and Jackson made 16 of 24 shots while the rest of the Lions made 6 of 41.
"No one really helped us put the ball in the basket," DeChellis said.
The second was horrible free throw shooting. As a team, Penn State went 13 of 22 (Tech was 13 of 19). Battle was 3 of 10, including two crucial misses with less than two minutes to go. Afterward, he was more disappointed in himself for that sorry showing than the missed chance to tie it late.
"I'm bummed out about that," Battle said. "That's an aspect where I really feel like I let my team down. I make a few more of those and we're smiling right now."
The third was a combination of bad fouls and tight calls by the officials in the game's waning moments. Down one with three minutes to go, PSU guard Chris Babb was called for an intentional foul on gifted Hokie scorer Malcom Delaney (27 points). Though Tech only go two points out of the situation, it set a tone for the final few minutes. The Hokies final basket was a Delaney triple with 8:10 left in the game that gave them a 56-51 lead.
The rest of their scoring came on free throws, many on fouls committed far away from the basket. Some of them were touch fouls. But others were just bad plays. Center Andre Jones fouled out on an illegal screen. Rookie guard Tim Frazier hacked Delaney 40 feet from the basket
"We made poor decisions the last two minutes," DeChellis said.
And Battle still nearly bailed them out. Delaney made one of two free throws with 28.3 showing to give Tech a 63-59 lead. Battle countered with a driving layup to cut it to 63-61. Delaney was fouled on the inbound and made a pair to boost it to 65-61 with 17.4 left.
Then, with the crowd of 11,237 going crazy, Battle bombed in a deep trip.
"Talor and Delaney really put on a show," DeChellis said.
Penn State trailed by one, 65-64, when Hokie guard Erick Green was fouled with 6.6 seconds to go. He made the first and missed the second and the score was 66-64. Battle went high for the rebound.
With any number of buzzer-beaters in his career, he was the obvious choice to take the last shot here.
"The guy just took it and put his head down and went like a Heisman Trophy winner wire to wire," Greenberg said.
Battle crossed over in the lane and went hard down the left side. He found interference, but still managed to get off a left-hander from short range. But it missed.
"Everything was right on the play except for finishing the layup," he said.
He sat on the bench for a few moments with his head in his hands. Then he realized the game didn't hinge on that single play.
"We're all smarter than to know that one play was not the ball game," he said. He also insisted there will be no long-lasting ramification to the miss.
"I'll tell you one thing, I won't be shy to take it again," Battle reported.
Game notes: Battle twisted his right ankle in the first half and left the game for treatment but returned. The ankle was packed in ice during his press conference. ... Penn State unveiled a 2-3 zone in the first half and stuck with it for most of the rest of the game to help stop the Hokies strong post scorers. ... The Lions are off for finals for a week before taking in Gardner Webb at the BJC next Saturday.
VIRGINIA TECH (66): Allen 4-9 3-4 12, Bell 1-3 0-1 2, Davila 4-6 0-0 8, Hudson 1-5 3-4 5, Delaney 9-20 6-7 27, Raines 0-0 0-0 0, Green 2-5 1-2 6, Witcher 0-0 0-0 0, Boggs 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 3-5 0-1 6. Totals 24-55 13-19 66.
PENN ST. (64): Jackson 4-8 2-2 12, Brooks 1-6 0-0 2, Jones 1-3 5-6 7, Battle 12-26 3-10 32, Frazier 1-5 0-0 2, Babb 1-7 2-2 4, Edwards 1-5 0-0 2, Woodyard 0-2 0-0 0, Ott 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 22-65 13-22 64.
Halftime-Tied 36-36. 3-Point Goals-Virginia Tech 5-15 (Delaney 3-7, Green 1-2, Allen 1-2, Bell 0-1, Boggs 0-1, Hudson 0-2), Penn St. 7-24 (Battle 5-11, Jackson 2-3, Brooks 0-1, Woodyard 0-2, Edwards 0-2, Babb 0-5). Fouled Out-Jones. Rebounds-Virginia Tech 38 (Allen 10), Penn St. 41 (Battle 9). Assists-Virginia Tech 8 (Delaney, Hudson 2), Penn St. 11 (Battle, Frazier 3). Total Fouls-Virginia Tech 20, Penn St. 21. A-11,237. -11,237.