Andrew Funk had his career shooting game on Penn State’s biggest stage in more than two decades.
Funk made 8 of 10 3-pointers and scored 27 points to lead the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 22 years with a 76-59 win over Texas A&M on Thursday night.
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 will play Texas next Saturday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
Penn State’s previous tournament win was a second-round victory over North Carolina in 2001 in New Orleans. The Nittany Lions lost to Temple in the Sweet 16, and when they returned to the tournament in 2011, they lost again to the Owls.
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Texas A&M (25-10) has won 10 of 12 games in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018. The Aggies lost in the first round for just the second time in nine games since 2006.
Dexter Dennis led A&M with 19 points and 34 percent shooting.
Funk was 0-for-3 in last weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game. But he made his first 3-pointer against the Aggies, missed another, then hit six straight. The streak ended when he made a desperate 3-pointer with the shot clock running out.
Penn State (23-13) big star Jalen Pickett had another strong all-around game with 19 points, eight assists, no turnovers and seven rebounds.
Penn State led 38-22 after outscoring the Aggies 28-10 to close the first half. The Aggies haven’t scored so few points in the first half since November 24, 2021 against Notre Dame.
The Lions’ offense is the way coach Micah Shrewsberry likes it, with 6-foot-10 Kebba Gee as a post threat, creating space on the perimeter for Funk, Miles Dread and Seth Lundy to do what they do best. Dread and Lundy each had two 3s, and Penn State finished 13 of 22 from distance.
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The Aggies have been going through some tough times recently when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Buzz Williams was upset When the Aggies went undrafted last year. This season they came in as the No. 7 seed, lower than the Aggie faithful felt was fair.
THE BIG PICTURE:
Penn State: The Lions’ dominance of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 will increase the focus for second-year coach Shrewsberry, who has been linked with openings at Notre Dame and Georgetown.
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ first tournament appearance in five years ended like their last — with a blowout. They lost to Michigan in the 2018 Sweet 16 by 27 points.
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Penn State will play Texas for the first time in men’s basketball.