No. 9 Purdue takes on Penn State in Big Ten semifinals

Penn State has Ohio State’s number.

For the third time this season, the Nittany Lions upset the Buckeyes — and this one was the biggest of the three, earning Penn State on Friday a spot in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The seventh-seeded Nittany Lions will face No. 9 Purdue (27-5), the 3 seed, which beat 14th-seeded Rutgers 82-75 in the late game Friday.

Josh Reeves made a dunk to help Penn State regain the lead with 3.1 seconds left, and the Nittany Lions held on for a 69-68 win.

Penn State guard Tony Carr was the one who found Reeves.

“I was definitely surprised how open he was,” Carr said. “He was wide open, but I guess that’s what happens when it’s a mismatch and you got to pay some extra attention to the ball.”

“As soon as I did it, I feel like I left my body for a second,” Reaves added. “I was just standing there, just excited. I heard that they called a timeout, so I took advantage of that moment to try to get the crowd into it.”

The Nittany Lions advanced to their first semifinals in the Big Ten tournament.

Does the win over the Buckeyes put Penn State (21-12) back in the at-large-bid discussion for the NCAA Tournament?

“If we keep winning these basketball games, no doubt,” Nittany Lions guard Shep Garner said. “No doubt. I mean we’re a confident bunch. We know what we can do. Even without the big fella (Mike Watkins, who is out due to injury), we know what we can do.”

Purdue advanced buy putting a halt to Rutgers’ Cinderella aspirations.

The Boilermakers trailed for the entire first half and were tied with the Scarlet Knights with seven minutes to go.

But Rutgers, which had upset Indiana a day earlier, ran out of gas down the stretch.

The Scarlet Knights’ second season under head coach Steve Pikiell came to an end at 15-19.

“I think this is a Final Four team,” Pikiell said of the Boilermakers. “We did a lot of good things. We hung around with them. They’re well-coached, and that’s as good a team as there is in the country. I haven’t seen too many better teams in 15 years.”

For Purdue, it was a matter of survival.

“They were hitting tough shots; they rebounded pretty well,” senior guard Dakota Mathias said. “I was pretty proud of our guys the last five minutes, gutting it out the way we did.”

The Boilermakers edged Penn State 76-73 on Feb. 18 in the only meeting this season between the teams, and their coach, Matt Painter, was impressed.

“I think it was just a great win in terms of from an energy standpoint,” Painter said after the game. “We were very fortunate to win this game.”