Josh Reaves was a career 7 percent three-point shooter coming into Penn State's Tuesday night Big Ten/ACC Challenge tilt with Georgia Tech. So with the game very much in the balance and the shot clock winding down, of course the recently-returned Reaves drilled a triple to put the game out of reach. And as only a swiss-army knife can, Reaves recovered a loose ball on the very next possession and laid the ball in to seal a victory for a spent Nittany Lions team that moved to 5-3 on the season.
The late heroics were very welcome in a game that saw the pink and black-clad home team struggle to get any offensive rhythm against GT head coach Josh Pastner's zone defense. Penn State was held well under 1.00 points per possession for most of the game, and Tony Carr struggled for the first time in his young career. The frosh failed to reach double-figure scoring, but his Philly friends helped to pick up the slack. Lamar Stevens had a crowd-energizing yam in each half, and Mike Watkins more than held his own against the nation's top shot-blocking team and GT linchpin Ben Lammers. Shep Garner paced all scorers with 17 points on 6-14 (3-8 3pt) shooting.
Georgia Tech failed to do what most good teams do against the slap-happy Lions. They settled for jumper after jumper and never put any of Penn State's players in foul trouble. As a result, Pat Chambers was able to stick to an eight-man rotation (which might have been nine had Davis Zemgulis recovered from an ankle tweak) and keep his first-choice lineups on the floor at all times.
Neither team shot especially well, but Penn State attacked the paint in the second half and it earned them the win. Lammers picked up his fourth foul with over three minutes to play, and it was a virtual wrap after that.
- Shep Garner - Played calmer than he has in most games this season, though he had a quick trigger in the first half. His poise was very much needed tonight.
- Mike Watkins - Posted 12 points, 12 boards and five blocks against a legitimate post presence in Lammers. Missed some bunnies, but another great experience and showing for the young fella.
- Tony Carr - Other than a nifty scoop layup to close the first half, Carr played tentatively. A bounceback this Saturday vs Wright State (5 p.m., BTN Plus) will surely be in the cards.
- Lamar Stevens - Forced a few shots, but the gifts were on display again. Chambers will gladly take 10 points and 9 boards every night from the freshman.
- Payton Banks - 4 points on 2-6 shooting. Should be a bigger presence in these games.
- Terrence Samuel - Too aggressive at times, but the energy he brings to the floor is undeniable. Jumpshot still isn't there.
- Julian Moore - Had some successes tonight, but still too sheepish at times. His new haircut suits him well.
- Josh Reaves - Josh of all trades had 4 steals and a block to go with 9 points. If that jumper falls with any consistency (like, 30 percent), watch out.