Josh Reaves Proving To Be A Difference Maker For Penn State Hoops
After a loss on the road against Northwestern on January 20, the season outlook began looking quite bleak for Penn State basketball. The Nittany Lions had lost five of their past eight games, including a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to a relatively unknown Rider squad.
But Penn State was able to break out of its slump in style and give fans some hope by defeating a ranked Ohio State team on the road in a hostile environment. A few days later, the Nittany Lions returned home and won once more against Rutgers.
What’s been different throughout the past two games? The return of forward Josh Reaves.
Reaves sat out four games for academic reasons, three of which resulted in losses. Many fans wrote off the team after losing to some middle-of-the-pack Big Ten opponents, but Reaves’ return has instantly provided a spark plug off the bench. He played more than 30 minutes in both games since his return, scoring 10 and 15 points respectively. But what makes Reaves such a special player is his ability to affect the game in all aspects.
Earlier in the season, Reaves flashed triple-double potential, finishing just two assists shy against Rider. Of late he’s been grabbing rebounds and dishing assists as well. However, his defense has set him apart from other players in the Big Ten.
Reaves had four steals in a win against Rutgers, leading to a few breakaway dunks and placing the junior in the top ten all-time for steals in Penn State history. Offense has failed Penn State in many of its games this year, but defense has been key to the team’s 15 wins. The Nittany Lions rank No. 14 nationally in blocks with nearly six per game, and are in the top 40 in steals as well. The main contributor is none other than Reaves, who’s No. 16 nationally with 2.3 steals per game.
When the team has needed him most, he’s been one of the most consistent players amid a rough conference schedule. A prime example is Penn State’s faceoff against Rutgers, when starting small forward Lamar Stevens failed to make a shot until the latter part of the second half. Stevens was in foul trouble, forcing Reaves into action — and he delivered.
Afterwards, Pat Chambers raved about Reaves’ passion for the game and his improvement over the course of the season.
“[Reaves] has been great,” he said. “He’s gotten better by doing so many of the little things, and is just a complete player in so many aspects.”
Penn State’s last win puts the team at 5-5 in the Big Ten, regaining hope the Nittany Lions could possibly make a late run at the NCAA Tournament. Look out for the Nittany Lions as Josh Reaves and company take on No. 6 Michigan State on the road at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in hopes of another statement win.