UPDATE: 2:28 AM
NEW YORK — If you have heard it once, you have heard it dozens of times if you are a sports fan: It’s hard to defeat a team three times in a season. Where the oft-used aphorism originated from is a mystery, but Penn State’s men’s basketball team hopes it took a big step in putting the logic to that theory to rest once and for all with tonight’s victory in New York City.
Whether they laid to rest the doubts that the NCAA Selection Committee had about the team just over a week until Selection Sunday still remains to be seen, but the Nittany Lions sure boosted their hopes of making it to the Big Dance after Josh Reaves’ go-ahead dunk off a pass from Tony Carr with 3.1 seconds remaining lifted Penn State to a 69-68 victory over No. 2 seed Ohio State to advance to the semifinals of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament.
Carr, the leading scorer in the conference this season, once again led the Nittany Lions tonight with 25 points, but played the role of distributor on their final possession, as he started to drive to the basket before finding a cutting Reaves going backdoor for a wide-open slam which sent the Nittany Lions fans at Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.
Penn State improves to 21-12 on the season, adding a third “Quadrant 1” victory on its tournament résumé this season. However, all of those three victories have come against the Buckeyes, so at least one more quality victory against a team not hailing from Columbus, Ohio might be necessary.
The Nittany Lions will get their chance tomorrow to secure another such victory, as No. 3 Purdue also advanced into the semifinals with an 82-75 victory over No. 14 seed Rutgers, who came up just shy in pulling off their third upset in as many days in the tournament. Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards each scored 26 points for the Boilermakers as Purdue hit 8-of-17 from three in the second half to hold off a number of runs by the Scarlet Knights.
Junior Corey Sanders, who might have played his final game in a Rutgers uniform if he decides to enter his name into the NBA Draft, scored 23 points. finishing with 74 overall in his three games at MSG. Off the bench, freshman guard Geo Baker scored 25 points as he looks like the player who will lead Rutgers for years to come and possibly fill the big shoes left by a Sanders departure.
NEW YORK — The nor’easter that’s currently battering the Big Apple is reminiscent of the raw weather one would see inside of a Big Ten football stadium during the fall. Fortunately, it is basketball – and the warm, indoor confines of Madison Square Garden – that is the showcase for the Big Ten in New York City, so the parkas and hoodies can come off after stepping inside.
The business end of the 2018 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament gets underway on Friday, as the top four seeds take the floor, starting with top-seed Michigan State, which went 16-2 in league play. However, the Spartans will take on ninth-seeded Wisconsin, a team that always poses a threat to the big boys in the league despite its uncharacteristically subpar season. Also, the Badgers are looking to extend their streak of making the NCAA Tournament for a 19th consecutive season, and that will only happen if they can get by Michigan State. (Of course, Wisconsin would have to win two more games after that. Tough road, indeed!)
The other three games today provide just as much intrigue, especially as it pertains to a possible bid to the NCAA Tournament that starts in less than two weeks. In Game 2, fourth-seeded Nebraska looks to burnish its résumé with a second win this season against No. 5 Michigan, who is a lock for the Big Dance.
No. 7 Penn State also is looking for a signature win before Selection Sunday, and tonight’s matchup against No. 2 Ohio State might be the perfect fit, as the Nittany Lions’ two biggest wins this season have come against the Buckeyes, and pulling off a three-game sweep will surely impress the Selection Committee.
In the nightcap, No. 14 Rutgers looks to continue its Cinderella run after winning its first two games in New York, but it will be a tall task, literally, in taking down 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas and the Purdue Boilermakers.
As always, our senior photographer, Robert Cole, has every angle covered at Madison Square Garden and will provide an array of amazing photos from each of the four contests, which are sure to be action-packed and tension-filled.