Chicago

Hot-shooting Funk leads Penn St. to first NCAA win since '01

Chicago

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Andrew Funk had the shooting game of his career on Penn State's biggest stage in over two decades.

Funk made 8 of 10 3-pointers and scored 27 points Thursday night in a 76-59 win over Texas A&M for the Nittany Lions' first NCAA Tournament victory 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 its second round upset of North Carolina 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.

Texas A&M (25-10) had won 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 appearances since 2006.

Dexter Dennis scored 19 points to lead A&M, which shot 34%.

Funk was 0 for 5 on 3s in the Big Ten championship game last weekend. But he made his first 3-pointer against the Aggies, missed his second, and then hit six in a row. The streak ended when he put up an air ball on a desperation 3 as the shot clock was running out.

Jalen Pickett, the biggest star for Penn State (23-13), played 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 hadn't scored so few points in a first half since a win over Notre Dame on Nov. 24, 2021.

The Lions' offense ran just the way coach Micah Shrewsberry likes it, with the threat of 6-foot-10 Kebba Jjie in the post creating space on the perimeter for Funk, Myles Dread and Seth Lundy to do what they do best. Dread and Lundy had two 3s apiece and Penn State finished 13 of 22 from distance.

The Aggies have had trying times recently when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Buzz Williams was infamously miffed when the Aggies weren't selected last year. This season they came in as a No. 7 seed, lower than Aggie faithful felt fair.

BIG PICTURE:

Penn State: The Lions’ dominance in their first NCAA Tournament game since 2011 will only intensify the spotlight on second-year coach Shrewsberry, whose name has been connected to openings at Notre Dame and Georgetown.

Texas A&M: The Aggies' first appearance in the tournament in five years ended the same way as the last one -- with a thud. They lost by 27 points to Michigan in the 2018 Sweet 16.

UP NEXT

Penn State will play Texas for the first time in men's basketball.