Lamar Stevens led the way with a commanding 25 points which moved him up to ninth on the all-time scoring list, but it was senior Josh Reaves that was once again the man of the hour. One game after placing his name in the Penn State history books at home versus Nebraska, by scoring his 1,000th point as a Nittany Lion, Mr. Electricity surpassed both the 500 rebound and 300 assists threshold in Champaign, Illinois. Mike Watkins recorded the 26th double-double of his career, and all told, four Nittany Lions scored in double figures. They shot just over 50% in the game but held the Illini to a paltry 39% that proved to be the difference. Penn State, who led by seven at the half, went up by as much as 15 in the second and managed to survive the inevitable Illini run at the end.
If you’re beginning to sense some beaming admiration on my part, you would be correct. I fully admit to being on the brink of losing faith as the wins evaded us to start off the year, but it’s been so fun to watch as they bring us off the ledge. A squad that was winless in conference play at one point has now collected three out of the past four, including the court-storming upset over No. 6 Michigan two weeks ago. Illinois was in the same position coming into this contest on Saturday but proved to be no match for this newfound swagger as Penn State hoops flexed their muscles on the road.
Up next is the second to last home game for a Nittany Lion squad desperately trying to jump into the thick of things. The Maryland Terrapins come rolling into town on Wednesday, winner of their past two as well and sporting a 21-7 overall record. Interestingly enough, two of their last three losses were to the same Illini and Wolverine squads that we left in our wake during this second half run in February. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. and will be live on BTN for those that can't make it. The last time we tangled back in mid-December, Penn State gave the Terps all they could handle before ultimately falling 66-59 on the road. Between then and now, we nearly flatlined but have since risen from the grave. There’s not a thing left to play for but pride and the opportunity to be the spoiler. As Penn State has proven over the past two weeks, that could be a lethal combination for anyone standing in the lion's way.