Penn State Basketball Takeaways From 76-59 NCAA Tournament Win Over Texas A&M
Penn State Basketball did what has felt like the impossible for the last 22 seasons ,and that is not only make the NCAA Tournament but win a game.
The Nittany Lions dominated the Aggies in classic fashion hitting three’s and playing gritty defense. It really can’t be said enough how much this game means to the Penn State Basketball fanbase. Most of the students attending Penn State right now weren’t even alive for the last time Penn State won an NCAA Tournament game.
All season the reliance on the three-point shot meant that this team could beat anybody and also lose to anybody depending on how the shots were falling.
Late Thursday night, the shots were falling in the best way possible as Penn State hit 13 from beyond to put the Aggies away by halftime.
Takeaways from the historic performance and what is next for Penn State Basketball:
We have seen it before this season and knew it was possible, but the timing couldn’t have been better for Andrew Funk to hit his season high in 3 pointers made.
The senior went 8-for-10 from distance and was a walking bucket all night.
All Funk’s makes didn’t touch the rim and of his two misses one got stuck between the rim and glass and the other was a prayer thrown up at the end of the shot clock. Funk finished with a season high 27 points and responded in a big way after finishing 0-5 in the Big Ten Championship game.
This game is just another reason why Funk was the perfect addition in the transfer portal this past offseason.
If Penn State Basketball is going to be able to compete with Texas Saturday night, they are going to have to rely on Funk to continue staying hot from beyond the arc.
It was nice to see Jalen Pickett finally get an opportunity to showcase his skills against a Non-Big Ten team.
Pickett‘s style of play is so unique and hard to stop, and it was clear early that Texas A&M was struggling to make adjustments.
The reason the Penn State offense works as well as it does is it makes defenders choose between letting Pickett “booty ball” his way into the paint or to bring the double and leave the wide-open shooters around the arc. Pickett has turned into such an exceptional passer this season finding guys all over the floor that it makes defending this team very difficult when they get going.
If the three pointers start falling it opens up the lane for Pickett. If Pickett gets going inside, it can open up the three point shots for guys like Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy.
Pickett finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. A stat line that is pretty much on par for his season averages. There is a reason why he is the first Penn State player to be named an All-American since the 1950s. As much praise as Andrew Funk will get, Pickett is the engine of this offense and will dictate how competitive the Nittany Lions are against the Longhorns, whether that is through his scoring or passing ability.
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Defense, Defense, Defense
It is hard to believe the turnaround that this team has had from where it was defensively amidst a losing streak in February.
The Big Ten Tournament defense has carried into the NCAA Tournament as Penn State held Texas A&M to a 33.9% field goal percentage and forced 10 turnovers.
While the Aggies got quite a few offensive rebounds, they weren’t able to convert on the many opportunities and stay in the game. Penn State is never going to be a lockdown defensive team. Often they run out a small ball lineup that has Seth Lundy as the tallest defender at 6 foot 6 and often 6 foot 4 Myles Dread as the man covering the center position. What they have done exceptionally well over the previous 10 games is providing help defense in the paint and forcing teams to exit their comfort zone and take more three-point shots.
Texas A&M couldn’t get in a rhythm from distance all night and finished 10-34 (29.4%) from three. Texas is a much better shooting and shot 13-23 (56.5%) in addition to being a solid offensive rebounding team. Penn State will need to find a way to force turnovers against a veteran backcourt and continue to force tough shots late in the shot clock if they want to pull the upset over 2 seeded Texas.
What’s Next for Penn State Basketball
No. 10 Penn State will now take on No. 2 Texas in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Longhorns took down #15 Colgate 81-61 Thursday night and looked in control from start to finish. Texas has been a top 10 team all season and is led by a collection of veteran players. The game will tip off at 7:45 pm ET on CBS.