Josh Reaves fittingly gave his team a chance to win the game.
The Penn State guard swooped in to grab an offensive rebound after a missed 3-pointer by Payton Banks. With 28.8 seconds left, the Nittany Lions were tied with Minnesota and took a timeout. Reaves let out a scream, fired up as he had spearheaded Penn State’s effort to climb back into the game in the second half with his hustle play.
The Nittany Lions came out of the timeout and put the ball in freshman point guard Tony Carr’s hands. Carr, who was scoreless with six turnovers, attacked the rim and had his layup attempt blocked by Minnesota’s Eric Curry. Penn State went right back to Carr, inbounding the ball to him in the paint, where Golden Gophers guard Nate Mason was whistled for a foul.
It was Minnesota’s eighth team foul, and Carr stepped to the line for the 1-and-1 with 5.2 seconds left. The freshman point guard knocked down both free throws to lift Penn State to a 52-50 win over No. 24 Minnesota on Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions (11-7, 3-2 Big Ten) overcame a 30.4 percent shooting performance and 10-point halftime deficit with Reaves leading the way on the defensive end. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five steals and one block.
“Penn State won the basketball game today, but Josh Reaves was 90 percent of it,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
Mike Watkins paced Penn State with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Payton Banks added 10 points and hit the team’s only two 3-pointers — the Nittany Lions finished 2 for 14 from beyond the arc.
Watkins and Banks were both factors in the final minutes.
Banks drilled a 3-pointer to pull Penn State even with Minnesota (15-4, 3-3) at 48-48 with 2:12 left. After Mason knocked down a jumper, Watkins grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a pair of free throws to tie it 50-50 with 1:25 to play.
“He’s a difference maker for sure,” Chambers said of Watkins. “He gets every rebound, he plays hard, gets a huge offensive rebound at the end and then to make his free throws is just awesome.”
The Nittany Lions went into halftime trailing 32-22 after shooting 28.6 percent from the field and turning the ball over 10 times. Chambers said his team “can’t play much worse,” lamenting the first-half turnovers.
Reaves said the team talked about its defense during the break. The Nittany Lions needed to lock Minnesota down in the second half to win the game.
That’s what they did as the Golden Gophers shot 28.0 percent and committed 11 turnovers in the second half.
Reaves led the way, diving for loose balls, sprinting back on defense and coming up with four of his five steals in the final 20 minutes.
He said his endless energy supply can be traced back to his childhood.
“I was running around all day 24/7,” Reaves said. “My mom, they literally had to like strap me down on my bed so I wouldn’t get up and move.”
Reaves didn’t let up until the game was over, chasing Mason down the court and reaching for the ball as Mason heaved a prayer from 3-point range off the backboard.
Reaves ended up on the floor and sat with both arms raised after the final buzzer.
“The end result was because we wanted it a little bit more and we played a lot harder,” Reaves said.
Penn State hosts Indiana at 7 p.m. Wednesday.