Penn State’s Season Comes to An End following NCAA Tournament Loss to Texas
A season to remember in Happy Valley came to a bittersweet end on Saturday night, following Penn State men’s basketball’s 71-66 defeat to Texas in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
After ending a 22-year drought without a March Madness victory, Penn State nearly continued its Cinderella story against the Longhorns in Des Moines, but ultimately ran out of magic in the waning stages.
Despite a large seeding differential between the tenth-ranked Nittany Lions and the second-seeded Longhorns, Texas had its hands full all the way to the final buzzer.
Given both teams’ red-hot offensive outings in the first round of the tournament, fireworks were anticipated from the jump. It wasn’t long before expectations were readjusted in a first-half defensive showdown, with every single shot carrying even more weight.
At the ten-minute mark, Penn State stood at a dreadful 4-for-14 shooting; the Longhorns weren’t any better, hitting just five of their first 16 shots.
The remainder of the half showed no signs of change for either team, but Texas slowly climbed to an eight-point lead on the back of senior forward Dylan Disu’s 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
The one bright light in the darkness for Penn State was senior guard Camren Wynter, who knocked down four of his first five attempts for 10 points at the half. The rest of the blue and white, however, combined for just five baskets in the initial 20 minutes of play.
A 31-23 deficit at the intermission seemed rather manageable for the Nittany Lions, considering their typical lights-out shooting was anything but in the first half.
Fresh out of the locker room with the season on the line for Penn State, senior guard Andrew Funk knocked down his first shot of the night beyond the arc, igniting a spark that would eventually evolve into a fully fledged flame.
Funk went on to score eight points in the first six minutes of the second half, bringing the Nittany Lions back to within four points on an 11-4 run and prompting a Texas timeout.
Over the ensuing eight minutes, both teams traded blows, with the Longhorns seemingly providing an answer to every Penn State bucket.
However, with time dwindling away and Sweet 16 hopes getting bleak, one of the Nittany Lions’ steady senior leaders came alive off the bench to keep the dream alive.
It was guard Myles Dread who stole the show, knocking down two momentous three pointers during a 10-0 Penn State run, giving the blue and white a 58-55 lead with under five minutes to go.
Following a Texas timeout, the Longhorns fired back with a 6-0 run of their own to retake a three-point lead, highlighted by a silky smooth Disu fadeaway to beat the shot clock with 2:30 on the game clock.
The Texas lead would remain untested despite a miraculous four-point play by senior guard Seth Lundy with just under five seconds remaining, sending the Nittany Lions packing after a historic season.
It was all Disu in crunch time, scoring 10 of his 28 points in the final five minutes, setting a Texas record for most field goals in an NCAA Tournament game with 14 – a record previously held by Kevin Durant.
The Longhorns will go on to play the winner of Xavier-Pitt next Friday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
Grant Sheets is a sophomore majoring in public relations. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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