Penn State Basketball: Reaves Comes Up Big Late As Nittany Lions Beat Rutgers 66-65
In the Big Ten you take wins however you can get them, and Penn State will take a Wednesday night 66-65 victory over Rutgers and race home to State College before Wednesday is even over.
The Nittany Lions, who led by 20 in the second half, thanks to a 37-19 lead at the break, saw a scrappy and vastly improved Rutgers team make a second half charge in front of a sold out New Jersey crowd.
And as the clock ticked down, Penn State looked to be on the ropes, the Nittany Lions trying their hardest to win their sixth game in nine outings while simultaneously struggling to make shots and prevent costly turnovers. It seemed -if history was to be anyone's guide- that this was a Nittany Lion loss in the making.
But with exactly three minutes to go Josh Reaves rose and fired a three from in front of his bench.
Nothing but net, and Penn State led 66-60.
The shot, and the final few minutes, were a fitting ode to Reaves' career. The senior has spent his tenure at Penn State picking the pockets of opponents but has never really been an offensive player, at least not in the sense of looking for his shot. He has made his hypothetical money on the defensive end.
That has changed in 2018 and beyond as Penn State leaned on the senior for more on the offensive end, Reaves has attempted 117 from beyond the arc this year, the most in his career. He has made 39 of those attempts, the 32% clip is not the best in the Big Ten, or even on his own team, but it's serviceable in the moments it has to be.
And it was when it had to be on Wednesday.
The career in minutia didn't stop there though, Reaves launching into the air with 45 seconds to go to block a deep three and Penn State headed the other way.
Even that wasn't enough.
So yet again, Reaves found himself near the basket in the game's final seconds as Rutgers frantically to take a late lead trailing by the game's final score. And as a point-blank attempt lifted towards the basket, Reaves swatted the ball free and away from danger.
Ironically, on a night when seven different players were in double figures, Reaves managed just eight points. Lamar Stevens led the way with 18, Rasir Bolton added 11 and Myreon Jones added 13 more off the bench. Mike Watkins scored eight to go with his 14 rebounds and three blocks.
All told it was a Penn State win that marked the Nittany Lions' sixth in Big Ten play and gives Penn State a chance to secure a first-round Big Ten Tournament bye with a Saturday win over Illinois and a little help around the conference.
But for now the Nittany Lions will enjoy the win, and Reaves will enjoy a few more pivotal defensive plays he can add to the highlight reel.