Penn State Basketball dominates Texas A&M to win their first NCAA tournament game since 2001.
Coming into tonight, there was a lot of deserved buzz about Penn State Basketball and the Nittany Lions lived up to the hype, defeating Texas A&M 76-59.
Playing in the first tournament in program history since 2011, this was a big moment for the team. But the team did not falter under the pressure. In fact, the opposite happened. The Nittany Lions played one of their best games of the year.
Andrew Funk was on fire all night, finishing with 8 three-pointers and 27 points. Jalen Pickett was the best player on the court all night, contributing 19 points and 8 assists in typical Pickett fashion. And the Penn State defense made life difficult for Texas A&M star Wade Taylor who finished just 2-of-15 from the field.
If you read the preview for this game, much of this game did not surprise you. Texas A&M crashed the glass hard. Despite the offensive rebounds, their offense still struggled to produce points. They also struggled to defend the three-point line all night, which is essentially a death sentence against a team like Penn State Basketball.
This game was not very competitive from the moment Wade Taylor picked up two quick fouls. Without the All-SEC guard, the A&M offense struggled mightily, including a near 6-minute scoring drought. Penn State used that to go on a 13-3 run and the lead only grew from there.
Andrew Funk then caught fire, making 4 three-pointers in the first half for 15 points at halftime. The recipe for success was simple: Jalen Pickett drive, kick to the open shooter, and repeat. Pickett completely controlled the entire game as we’ve grown accustomed to.
It was a 28-10 run to end the first half and it honestly seemed like A&M would not score enough points to mount a comeback. Texas A&M was held to a season low 22 points in a half.
The second half was much of the same. Penn State controlled the clock, made timely threes, and played solid defense. Funk made 4 more threes, giving him a total of 8 on just 10 attempts. Most of these were also nothing but net. Just an elite shooting performance from Funk.
With the score 50-31, Pickett had scored or assisted on 31 of the 50 Penn State points. A&M Coach Buzz Williams was interviewed on the sideline and mentioned the dilemma is either doubling Pickett and leaving a shooter open, or single covering Pickett and letting him go for 30. It is safe to say that after 40 minutes of play, the A&M defense still has not solved that dilemma.
It was nice to watch a stress-free Penn State Basketball game for the first time this month. The Nittany Lions will need to replicate this performance if they want to beat the #2 seed Texas Longhorns on Saturday. We have seen senior led teams get hot and go on Cinderella runs before in the tournament, so… why not us?