UNIVERSITY PARK — It looked like so many other Penn State basketball games over the years, with the Nittany Lions playing well, only to squander things in the closing minutes.
Myles Dread then saved the day.
“Myles has a lot of experience,” PSU interim coach Jim Ferry said. “He’s a guy that we just trust a lot.”
Ferry and Penn State’s players maintained their trust in Dread despite him having a tough night, getting in foul trouble and going 0-for-4 from the field over the first 39 minutes and 59 seconds.
But in the final second, of a tie game, Dread let loose a 3-pointer from the right wing and buried it, giving Penn State a 72-69 win over VCU at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“All four guys on the court were definitely confident in him,” said PSU’s Seth Lundy, who scored a career-high 32 points. “He (had been) 0-for-4 today, but I knew that shot was going to go in.”
Penn State (2-0) led throughout, including 35-32 at the half, and appeared to be pulling away on a 3-pointer by Lundy for a 64-56 lead with 5:51 to go.
But VCU (2-2) fought back, taking advantage of some inside buckets and missed free throws by Penn State down the stretch.
Sam Sessoms, who scored 17 points in his second game at PSU after transferring from Binghamton, had a chance to give the Lions a three-point lead with 20 seconds to go, but he made 1-of-2 from the line for a 69-67 edge.
VCU caught Penn State’s defense napping on the weak side and scored on a drive to tie with 9.5 seconds to go.
That set up the final sequence, with Jamari Wheeler starting to drive at the top of the key and then dishing to a wide-open Dread on the right wing.
Boom. Bucket. Ballgame.
BLESSED‼️COULN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT THE LOVE OF MY TEAMMATES💜 pic.twitter.com/XAt8nlvgW3
— Myles Dread (@mylesd12_) December 3, 2020
“That last possession really showed who we are as a team,” said Ferry, referencing how everyone shared the basketball to get the best shot.
Even if the pass went to a player who had struggled throughout the game.
“We all love each other, we’ve been through a lot, but it just shows the trust we have and how much we believe in each other,” Sessoms said.
Dread has been in this spot before, having hit two other game winners in his career before Wednesday.
“Not everybody does have that confidence, not everybody wants the ball late in the game,” Ferry said.
“When Myles got it and let it go, everybody thought it was going in.”
It was just the second game of the season, but it could turn out to be huge for a Penn State team and program that have faced a lot of adversity. Coach Patrick Chambers resigned under pressure in October, just a month before the start of the season, and Ferry took over after serving as an assistant for three years.
“It’s just going to give everybody confidence moving forward,” Lundy said. “We know we’re a pretty good team, so we know we’ve got to keep that confidence.”
Ferry said the team is focused “on the right things and on each other,” and he knows the win was a good one. But just how big of a win it was will remain to be seen.
“These guys love each other, they trust each other and they play for each other,” Ferry said.
He later added, “Whether you want to say (the adversity has) brought us together tighter, I don’t know. … Maybe it will be a big win, I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Lundy and Sessoms were the only Lions who scored in double figures. Levi Stockard III led VCU with 13 points, while Nah’Shon Hyland added 11.