Asked for a succinct summation of the confident rhythm that fueled his effort from 3-point range Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Penn State guard Andrew Funk delivered again.
“The rim opens up and you get a lot of confidence flowing,” Funk said after drilling 8 of 10 from deep to down Texas A&M in Des Moines. “Feels good.”
Replicating that shooting effort when the Nittany Lions meet second-seeded Texas during Saturday’s Midwest Region second-round game might not be so simple. Thanks to its depth, No. 10 Penn State feels confident just the same.
“We just have a lot of weapons we go to and mix it up, and I think that makes us hard to guard,” Nittany Lions coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “It makes people think I’m a really good coach because I’ve got really good players sitting next to me.”
Penn State (23-13) showcased plenty of playmaking in a 76-59 rout of Texas A&M, shooting 59.1 percent from 3-point range as part of a 48.2 percent night from the field.
A Bucknell transfer, Funk scored 27 points to key the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001, but got plenty of help from Jalen Pickett (19 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) and Seth Lundy (10 points).
The Longhorns (27-8) just to happen to have some shooting of their own. And the Texas gameplan used against Colgate in its 81-61 win Thursday remains applicable.
Sir’Jabari Rice went 7-for-10 from 3-point range en route to a game-high 23 points, leading four Texas players in double figures. Rice is 15-for-26 from the floor in the past two games.
“All the credit goes to my teammates. They found me,” Rice said. “I was able to knock down shots tonight. I think it was the flow; we (were) just ready to play tonight. Obviously, I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well the last [two] games, but I just trusted my teammates, trusted my work, and it went well tonight.”
Overall, Texas shot 53.4 percent, including 56.5 percent from long range, and clamped down on Colgate’s bomb squad, which led the nation in 3-point shooting entering the tournament.
The Longhorns limited Colgate to 3-for-15 3-point shooting. The Raiders’ Ryan Moffatt and Oliver Lynch-Daniels, who both shot better than 45 percent from deep this season, went a combined 2-for-7 in the game.
Longhorns interim head coach Rodney Terry credited a strategy the team might also employ against Penn State’s sharpshooters.
“We wanted them to make tough twos,” Terry said. “We worked the post. We were willing to live with that as opposed to those guys shooting threes and making threes. We got back in transition, did a great job taking away threes in transition. … These guys really worked the game plan.”
As Texas plays in the program’s third straight NCAA Tournament, Penn State is part of March Madness for the first time since 2011. A win sends Texas back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008.
“It’s a quick turnaround and we’re getting ready for an unbelievable opponent who has had a great year, so we gotta do it again,” Shrewsberry said. “We got to trust our system, how we play and what we do, and we gotta prepare the same exact way.”
–Field Level Media