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Penn State vs Illinois Preview: Thank You Seniors

Let’s remember the great careers of Josh Reaves and Deividas Zemgulis

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Reaves Steal. Josh Reaves Dunk. Those were the first two plays of one of the most accomplished Nittany Lions in the history of the program. The “Josh Reaves” stat sheet soon thereafter became a common term in Nittany Lion lore. His ability to terrorize opposing offenses will remain etched in my mind for years to come, each play being more exciting than the next.

For the past four seasons, Reaves has worked up the Penn State record books, amassing 1041 points, 89 blocks, 303 assists, and 523 rebounds. But that’s not the stat that makes him famous. It’s the steals. His 243 steals rank 2nd in Penn State history to Ron Brown, and with nine steals to go to surpass Brown, something tells me that when it’s all said and done, the top of the mountain could be all his to stand on.

Having faced adversity as a child, Reaves learned to get better and better through hard work, ultimately seeing his work pay off on the field, and through a litany of offers from major programs. Reaves turned down offers from the likes of Maryland and Villanova, and instead chose to leave his mark at our very own Penn State. For that, we thank you. It’s been an amazing four years, and something tells me that the best is yet to come.

Thank you, Josh Reaves.

Scouting the Opposition

Unsurprisingly, Brad Underwood was not entirely thrilled with how his team played the last time the Illini faced the Nittany Lions. Expect Illinois to be much more aggressive this time around, taking a cue from their head coach to match the intensity Penn State brought to their arena two weeks ago.

Andres Feliz* and Giorgi Bezhanishvili were the biggest factors for the Illini the last time around, but one would be foolish to ignore the potential for Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier to go off at any given point, as scoring is never the issue with Illinois. In fact, the Lions need to be mindful of their defensive effort, as the game could quickly get out of hand if Illinois is having a good day defensively.

Outside of that, if the Nittany Lions can bully the Illini the way they did at the State Farm Arena, this game should be over rather quickly.

What to Watch For

Don’t forget Deivis Zemgulis - He will not graduate with the same types of accolades Reaves will get, but Zemgulis has been an instrumental part of what Pat Chambers is trying to build here in University Park. Besides, his eight points and timely three-point shots against Ohio State last season jumpstarted what would become an NIT-winning season. Thank you too, Deivis.

Post-Game celebrations - This is a departure from previous seasons, but it kind of makes sense. This is an important game for the Nittany Lions, and having senior night celebrations could bring emotions and tears and all of the feelings that could have an effect on game performance. If you’re attending the game, make sure to stick around regardless of result so you can send off the seniors with a warm good bye!

10-seed on the line - If you’d asked me on January 26th, minutes after losing to Rutgers, whether Penn State would finish 10th in the Big Ten, I’d have laughed at you. Yet that’s what Penn State is playing for today, with some help from our Bitterest Rival Indiana.


The team doesn’t want to feel emotions before the game, but I can. Penn State 99, Illinois 70.

*No relation, that I know of.