When a 3-point shot attempt left Penn State guard Shep Garner’s hands, Josh Reaves was standing beyond the arc on the opposide side of the court.
Reaves took off with a free lane to the rim.
When the shot missed, Reaves was there for an two-handed putback dunk to push the Nittany Lions ahead with less than five minutes to play. Penn State added to that lead and held off Kent State for a 75-69 win Wednesday night in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena.
The victory marked the end of the team’s nonconference slate, sending the Nittany Lions into Big Ten play with a 9-4 record. Penn State takes on No. 4 Maryland on the road in its conference opener Dec. 30 at 5 p.m.
Brandon Taylor scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Nittany Lions.
Taylor, who finished 12 for 21 from the field, sealed the win with his final bucket.
After Kent State pulled within three points in the final minute, Taylor’s drive and layup gave Penn State a 71-66 lead with 29 seconds left. Reaves, who had 10 points, provided the exclamation point on the ensuing possession, coming up with a steal and racing down the floor for a two-handed dunk.
Taylor carried Penn State in the first half, going 8 for 10 from the field for 19 points.
He drilled a 3-pointer to give Penn State a 38-37 lead — its first of the game — with less than two minutes left in the first half. He hit an array of fadeaways throughout the first 20 minutes, including one on the final play of the half to make it 42-37.
Kent State closed the gap out of the break and went ahead 51-50 on a 3-pointer by Chris Ortiz with less than 11 minutes remaining. The Golden Flashes built a 57-51 lead, but Penn State responded with a six-point run to tie it.
Penn State freshman forward Davis Zemgulis, who finished with 11 points, scored four points during the stretch.
Kent State took the lead after a jumper by Jaylin Walker. Garner hit a jumper — his lone field goal of the game — to tie it.
And on the next possession, Reaves’ putback dunk gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good.