Josh Reaves scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Penn State over Illinois 72-56 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The win guaranteed Penn State (14-17, 7-13) a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament and cemented Reaves’ legacy as one of the most versatile players to ever step on the Bryce Jordan Center hardwood.
Reaves made 10 of 17 field-goal attempts including a career-best 6 of 10 from 3-point range to lead the Nittany Lions in a game they led for all but 3:23 of the second half. He added four steals, two assists and a block which moved him into the program’s top 10 in the latter category. He needs six steals to become Penn State’s all-time leader.
Lamar Stevens added 16 points for the Nittany Lions, who won their second in a row.
Ayo Dosunmo and Giorgi Bezhanishvili scored 16 points apiece for Illinois (11-20, 7-13).
Penn State trailed 32-31 at halftime but Reaves made sure that didn’t stick. He scored 11 of Penn State’s first 16 points in the second and his fourth 3-pointer gave Penn State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish just over three minutes into the half.
The Nittany Lions pulled away to lead by as many as 14.
After both teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the game, Illinois used a 14-7 run and led 19-12 midway through the half. The Nittany Lions had gone 1 for 12 from 3-point range to that point but got three in a row from Reaves and Rasir Bolton before a 3-point play from Stevens put Penn State up 26-25.
The Illini ended the first half with an 8-5 run that included a pair of 3-pointers from Dosunmo.
The Illini lost five of six to end the regular season and will play in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. They entered with a chance to be seeded as high as eighth had they beaten Penn State and gotten some help.
Both teams will play in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, which begins on Wednesday. Illinois opens with Northwestern with an 8 pm tip.