Penn State earned its first win in the NCAA tournament since 2001 due to a dominant performance on both sides of the court against Texas A&M on Thursday night.
The Nittany Lions shot nearly 59.1% from 3-point range while holding the Aggies to 33.9% shooting overall en route to a 76-59 win.
Penn State’s 17-point win is its largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament game, besting the previous high of 12 against Toledo in 1954 (62-50).
The Nittany Lions sailed past the Aggies, but now No. 2 seed Texas awaits in the second round. Tipoff is slated for approximately 7:45 p.m. Saturday on CBS.
Penn State entered the Big Dance as one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, averaging 10.4 made 3’s per game and making nearly 39% of its attempts. The Nittany Lions were 13 of 22 in their first-round game, which tied for a season-high.
Texas is coming off a game against the No. 1 3-point shooting team in basketball, Colgate. The Longhorns held the Raiders to a season-low 20% (3 of 15) from long range. However, Texas has had a hard time protecting the 3-point line for much of the season.
The Longhorns will have to have a similar defensive intensity in the second round if they want to shut down the Nittany Lions.
There will be a lot of attention on the perimeter game, but there’s also Texas big man Dylan Disu to consider. The 6-foot-9 senior averages 8.8 points per game and scored 17 against Colgate.
The Nittany Lions don’t have an experienced big man to match up. They rely on freshmen Kebba Njie and Evan Mahaffey. Myles Dread, who is 6-foot-4, also tends to go toe to toe with the opponents’ frontcourt.
Players to watch
Andrew Funk: Funk was quiet in the Big Ten championship game, not making a single 3-pointer. He came into the NCAA tournament ready to make some noise.
He had a career-high performance, scoring 27 points and setting the single-game scoring record in the NCAA tournament for the Nittany Lions. He also broke Penn State’s record for most 3-pointers in a tournament game when he went 8 of 10. The previous mark of 5 was held by Talor Battle (2011 vs. Temple) and Pete Lisicky (1996 vs. Arkansas).
Jalen Pickett: Pickett finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers in the 40 minutes he played in his NCAA tournament debut.
No other player in tournament history has scored 15-plus points, grabbed seven or more rebounds, doled out seven or more assists, had zero turnovers, played the entire game and won the game since assists became an official stat in 1983-84.
Behind enemy lines
The Longhorns also had some 3-point success in their first round game, hitting 56.6% (13 of 23) of their attempts. Texas typically connects on 34.6% of its 3-pointers.