Penn State Baskeball: Reaves Scores 26 As Nittany Lions Beat Illinois 72-56
Penn State beat Illinois 72-56 on Sunday afternoon for its seventh win in 10 games -and thanks to an Indiana win over Rutgers- a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions won like they have for much of the past month or so, working out to a lead, this time in the second half, and never looking back.
It was testy defense and timely shooting coupled with points off the bench and energy from everyone. For Penn State, the ups and down have largely dissipated, in return it has become a month of routine results. This game story is like many before it. The wins look fairly similar, the method of victory all pretty much the same.
So this story isn't about all the nitty gritty, we'll get to the stats later. This story is about Josh Reaves, a senior who scored a career-high 26 points, had 11 rebounds, forced four steals and blocked a shot along the way.
It was fitting that Reaves' career at the Bryce Jordan Center ended on a dunk after opening with one. It was fitting that his game on Sunday had all of the little things fans have come to know Reaves for. He had deflections, he had moves in the paint and he had moments that made you shake your head. The silly fouls, the ambitious passes that resulted in turnovers. It had everything, all the good and all the bad.
If you wanted to know what Josh Reaves was like as a basketball player at Penn State, you need only watch the last 36 minutes of his regular season career.
It was also a game that showcased the player Reaves had become, once a rare threat to score, Reaves made a career-high six shots from beyond the arc, unthinkable even just months ago. Prior to Sunday he had scored 20 or more points on just four occasions through his 119 appearances for Penn State. He had done everything throughout his career and had done it well, but he had never done it like that.
“I never thought I’d have a game like this,” Reaves said. “I just wanted to play basketball. I just wanted to win.”
For the senior, Sunday marks the conclusion of a long and winding road in State College. Having committed to Penn State back in 2014, Reaves deserves as much credit as anyone for the recruiting surge under Pat Chambers. Forever loyal, Reaves saw Penn State through it all, the wins and mostly the losses, but his commitment never wavered both before and after he arrived on campus.
“He took a chance on us. He really did. He took a chance. What he’s done over the years and how he fills the stat sheet, he’s made for Attitude Club,” coach Pat Chambers said after the game. “He represents us in a way that that you want to be represented, that Penn Staters love. His character. His integrity. The way he played today in a critical game...Man, did he show up in a way that I haven’t seen.”
Lamar Stevens joined Reaves with 16 points and six rebounds as no other Nittany Lions hit double figures on Sunday afternoon. It was far from Penn State's best performance over the past month, shooting 42-percent from the field, but the Nittany Lions forged ahead in the second half and won without much in the way of late dramatics.
But in his final game at home, Reaves put on a performance of a career, and for a player that has the heart and soul of his program for the past half decade, it was a well deserved curtain call.