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Virginia Tech basketball: Hokies take on Penn State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

A preview for the Hokies and Penn State.

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis (PA) at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s Ty Outlaw, Wabissa Bede and Isaiah Wilkins in Tech’s win over Saint Francis
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicked off on Monday with Clemson battling Nebraska and Minnesota facing Boston College. The schedule picks up on Tuesday night with a number of ranked teams competing, including your No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies, who travel to State College to face the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State (3-2) opened the season with a pair of 15-point victories over North Florida and Jacksonville State before a two-point loss to DePaul. The Nittany Lions then defeated Wright State before dropping the final game to Bradley in the Cancun Challenge last week.

While DePaul and Bradley have been known to have solid programs over the years, no one is going to confuse them for Villanova or Wichita State. And those have been PSU’s toughest opponents to date thus far.

The Nittany Lions are led by 6’8” junior forward Lamar Stevens, who is averaging 25 points and nine rebounds per game. Stevens has averaged double figures in scoring in each of his previous two years on campus and will present quite the challenge for Tech’s frontcourt on Tuesday night.

Stevens isn’t Penn State’s only scoring threat. He leads a group of four players averaging in double figures including a trio of guards in senior Josh Reaves and a pair of freshmen: Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread. Dread is Penn State’s top three-point shooter, as he’s connected on 13 of 36 attempts on the young season.

The Nittany Lions aren’t the only team with a strong offense. The Hokies average 82 points per game and sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker averages almost 20 points per game, five rebounds and four assists. He’s showing everyone why he was a top-flight recruit just one year ago.

Make no mistake, though, senior point guard Justin Robinson runs the show for the Hokies. Robinson is scoring over 15 PPG, while dishing out just over six assists per contest. Ahmed Hill is also scoring 15 PPG, while Kerry Blackshear is averaging 12 points and four rebounds. Hill is shooting a blistering 56 percent from three-point range.

This is the third meeting between the two schools in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Nittany Lions won the last meeting, 61-58, four years ago.

Both teams are also missing players expected to be big contributors in 2018-19. PSU is without senior center Mike Watkins so far this season but he is available for Tuesday’s contest against the Hokies.

Tech, of course, is without senior Chris Clarke and freshman Landers Nolley. Clarke’s status is still unknown but we should expect some clarity on Nolley soon. Nolley could finally make his debut this weekend.

The Hokies and Nittany Lions tip off at 7 p.m. ET and the game will be shown on ESPN2.