Andrew Funk has shot his career on Penn State’s biggest stage in more than two decades.
Funk made 8 of 10 3-pointers and scored 27 points Thursday night in a 76-59 win over Texas A&M to seal the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA Tournament win in 22 years.
Funk, in his first year at Penn State after transferring from Bucknell, led the Nittany Lions to their ninth win in their last 11 games. They next play Texas in the second round of the Midwest Region on Saturday.
Penn State’s previous tournament win was North Carolina’s second round win in New Orleans in 2001. The Nittany Lions lost to Temple in the Sweet 16, and they lost to the Owls again when they returned to the tournament in 2011.
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Texas A&M (25-10) went 10 of 12 as it entered its first NCAA Tournament since 2018. The Aggies lost in the first round for only the second time in nine games since 2006.
Dexter Dennis scored 19 points, leading A&M, which shot 34 percent.
Funk was 0-for-3 in the Big Ten Championship game this past weekend. But he made his first 3-pointer against the Aggies, missed his second, and then hit a straight six. The streak ended when he put a volley on Despair 3 as the shot clock was running out.
Penn State’s biggest star Jalen Pickett (23-13) had another solid all-around game with 19 points, eight assists, no turnovers and seven rebounds.
Penn State took a 38-22 lead after outscoring the Aggies 28-10 to close out the first half. The Aggies haven’t scored as many points in a first half since beating Notre Dame on November 24, 2021.
The Lions’ offense ran the way coach Micah Shrewsbury likes it to be, with Kebba Jjie threatening 6-foot-10 at the post, creating space on the perimeter for Funk, Miles Dredd and Seth Lundy to do what they do best. Dread and Lundy had two 3s each and Penn State finished 13th of 22 from long range.
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The Aggies have had a hard time lately when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. trainer Buzz Williams was notoriously upset When the Aggies weren’t selected last year. This season they came in at #7, lower than what the Aggie faithful felt would be.
The Big Picture:
Penn State: The Lions’ dominance in their first NCAA Tournament game since 2011 will intensify the spotlight on second-year coach Shrewsbury, who has been linked with openers at Notre Dame and Georgetown.
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ championship debut in five years ended in much the same way as the last – with a blow. They lost by 27 points to Michigan in the 2018 Sweet 16.
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Penn State will play Texas for the first time in men’s basketball.
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