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Nittany Lions escape late-game charge by Virginia


With 5.3 seconds remaining on the clock, Virginia inbounded the ball under the Penn State basket. At the time, the Cavaliers found themselves trailing by three to the Nittany Lions, on the wrong side of a second-half rally.

Sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski brought the ball across half court, knowing his team needed three more points to have any hope of winning the game. Making a move past one Penn State defender, Zeglinski found himself surrounded by Lions as he took a last-second shot from behind the arc.

"I just tried to get a good look at the basket," Zeglinski said. "I actually thought I did have a pretty clean look. I thought I had some people on my back so I tried to lean forward a little bit. We got a shot; it just didn't go down."

Zeglinski's shot rimmed out, and Penn State held on to a narrow 69-66 victory as time expired.

Despite the close score, only one lead change occurred in the game. Virginia led until several minutes into the second half.

"The first half we played defensively the way we needed to - got good looks," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "But that four-minute stretch to start the second half - that's where we really hurt ourselves."

The Cavaliers finished the first period leading 27-21, thanks in large part to the play of junior forward Mike Scott, who went 6-for-6 from the floor.

"I am shooting with confidence," Scott said. "I have always been able to shoot those shots but did not have the confidence. Now I do."

Virginia's defense also managed to keep the Nittany Lions in check during the first period, holding them to 34.6 percent shooting from the field.

The story took a turn in the second period.

"Your defense has to hold you," Bennett said, "and if you're not making shots all game, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense but it can't give up that many quick buckets."

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, a 10-minute defensive lapse proved to be the deciding factor in the end result. A tired Virginia squad allowed Penn State to go on a 27-7 run, spurred by a 28-point second-half explosion from Penn State junior guard Talor Battle, who had been held to only four points in the first 20 minutes.

"In those stretches, your defense just can't collapse like it did," Bennett said.

With 3:46 left in the game, Penn State clung to a 12-point margin - its largest lead of the game. Despite the Cavaliers' apparent defensive woes, Zeglinski then helped engineer a Virginia comeback attempt courtesy of a 4-for-5 three-point shooting run.

Junior guard Sylven Landesberg - who finished with a team-high 18 points - also contributed to the comeback but faltered at the free-throw line when Virginia needed him most. On two trips to the strip in the final stretch, Landesberg came up empty both times, missing four straight shots after making four straight earlier in the game.

"You want him at the line - he draws fouls," Bennett said. "He is a marked man and he's a second-year. He just has to continue to stay aggressive, and I think that really stung him. We have to keep trying to give him looks. We tried to give him a couple post touches, get him some action going to the lane."

The game marked the Nittany Lions' third straight Big Ten/ACC challenge victory, and dropped Virginia to 4-3 this season and 5-5 overall in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.

The Cavaliers will continue their first season with Bennett on Monday, facing SEC opponent Auburn on the road.


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