Penn State Seeks to Advance To Sweet Sixteen With Showdown Against Texas
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After its 76-59 victory over Texas A&M on Thursday night, No. 10-seeded Penn State faces off against No. 2-seeded Texas Saturday night.
This is the first meeting between these two programs. However, Penn State finds itself 59-72 all time against Big 12 opponents.
For Penn State, this marks the first NCAA Tournament win since the 2001 team defeated Providence 69-59 in New Orleans, Louisiana. And 22 years to the date on Saturday, the Nittany Lions took down North Carolina 82-74 to advance to the Sweet 16.
For Texas, the Longhorns look to advance to the second weekend for the first time since 2008 when they took down No. 7-seed Miami (FL) to advance. That team went to the Elite Eight only to fall to No. 2-seed and National runner-up Memphis Tigers.
Both teams handled their opponents with 15+ point victories in the opening round, with the Nittany Lions winning by 17 points and Texas rolling with a 20-point win over No. 15-seed Colgate. Their success came from hot shooting performances from two guards.
First for Penn State, senior Andrew Funk had a career night, scoring a season-high 27 points on 8-for-10 shooting from behind the 3-point line. Longhorns’ guard Sir’Jabari Rice came off the bench and hit seven out of 10 deep balls for a 23-point showing.
Now these two teams square off against one another. One player on the Longhorns is quite familiar with the Nittany Lions.
Texas guard Marcus Carr was formerly a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers for two seasons before transferring to Austin. In his three games against Penn State, Carr scored 20+ points and shot over 30% from the field.
Nittany Lions coach Micah Shrewsberry said he has his focus toward finding a solution to contain Carr. However, that can leave open weapons like guard Tyrese Hunter and forward Timmy Allen who average over 10 points per game.
Like Shrewsberry, interim coach Rodney Terry, who stepped in the middle of the year after former coach Chris Beard was fired for an alleged case of domestic violence, does not have too much head coaching experience but found success this season. Since he stepped in, Texas has gone 20-7 en route to a Big 12 Tournament championship.
Now the key for the Nittany Lions is simple, as the blueprint was laid out Thursday night: make your threes. That can go for both sides of the ball against Texas.
Penn State shot 59.1% from beyond the arc against the Aggies. To go along with the offensive explosion, the defense helped Texas A&M to their worst shooting performance of the season, going 33.9% from the floor and their 29.4% shooting from the 3-point line was the 12th time the team shot under 30% from downtown this season.
As for Texas, two out of their eight losses had the Longhorns shoot under 40% from deep. Those two games that they did shoot the three well was a 116-103 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas and a 74-67 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.
The reason that the Longhorns lost was because they got outshot. The Red Raiders shot 46.6% from the field (39% for Texas) and 50% from 3-point land (40.7% for Texas). Kansas State outshot the Longhorns 60% to 51.5% on the court and 54.2% to 40.7% from three.
Another performance from the Nittany Lions like Thursday can give them a second-weekend berth for the first time since that 2001 season. All that’s left to expect is fireworks in Des Moines, Iowa.
Jonathan Draeger is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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