Believe it or not folks, despite all the broken hearts that winless streak left in its dismal wake, Penn State basketball actually has something to play for heading into Senior Day at the BJC. You read that right. It was not a misprint or grammatical error. Today at high noon, the Fightin’ Illini roll into Happy Valley and for the Nittany Lions, a victory all but guarantees them an opening round bye at the Big Ten tournament this week in the Windy City. Talk about picking yourself up off the floor and brushing the dirt off your shoulders. This squad has done it in style.
Most of us probably needed defibrillators and CPR after Wednesday night’s trip to Piscataway, but hey, a win is a win all day long, especially when it comes at the expense of those pesky Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. The game was electric, came down to wire, and in the end, Penn State came away victorious; something they hadn’t been able to do over the first 10 games in conference, including the matchup with Rutgers at home. Lamar Stevens led the way with 18 but it was the Penn State D that stole the show this night, led by Mr. Electric himself, Josh Reaves. He had a huge block and rebound in the chaos that ensued over the final ten seconds. The lone senior also swished in a key three-pointer with 45 seconds to go that gave us just enough cushion to pull out the win, despite Rutgers best effort.
Of course, Jamari ‘Steal Your Heart’ Wheeler had a hand in this one as well by holding one of the Big Ten’s best, Geo Baker, completely scoreless on the night and Big Mike Watkins was a rebounding machine as he climbed into the Top 10 all-time for rebounds at Penn State with 715. The Nittany Lions took the lead for good early on, watched it swell by 20+ going into halftime, and hung on down the stretch as the Scarlet Knights made a furious comeback only to watch it fall short as time expired. There was a time we couldn’t buy a crucial shot or make a play on D when we needed to most but all that has changed as our fortunes continue to climb and it was on full display Wednesday night.
So here WE ARE, left to say goodbye to Reaves and his electric vibe and energy that he’s brought to the table over the last few years. Stevens may be the leader but it’s Reaves example that has taught his team how to hustle and make the little things he does matter. He’s the only Nittany Lion in program history to register 1000 points, 500 rebounds, and 300 assists, and we all owe a standing ovation to Mr. Electric for the imprint he’s left on this young group of Lions that have finally found their way. A bye in Chi-town would be nothing short of incredible considering where we were a month ago, and who knows, the way Josh Reaves and the Electric Company have been playing of late, anything’s possible. Tip-off is at high noon in the BJC and will be shown live on FS1.