The Texas Longhorns beat the Penn State Nittany Lions, 71-66, in the second round of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Texas (28-8) became the first Big 12 team to advance to the Sweet 16 in this tournament. The Longhorns will play in the Midwest Regional next week in Kansas City, where they won the Big 12 Tournament a week ago.
How Texas Won
Dylan Disu, that’s who. If you saw him play in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament last week, you know he’s capable. But he had a near-career night with 28 points. He also set a Texas NCAA Tournament record with 14 made field goals, breaking the record set by Kevin Durant.
Down the stretch, he was incredibly clutch. Penn State took a three-point lead after an 10-0 run, which prompted a time out from Texas coach Rodney Terry. Coming out of the time out, the Longhorns made sure to get the ball to Disu. He dropped in a layup to cut the lead to one point.
It worked, so why not keeping doing it? Terry and the Texas guards were smart and kept feeding him the ball. Mid-range jumper? Check. Turnaround baseline jumper? Check. Another jumper after a Marcus Carr driving layup? Check.
During a 10-0 Texas run that gave Texas a seven-point lead, Disu had eight points. When Penn State’s Seth Lundy hit a layup with 41.5 seconds left to cut it to five, guess who? Disu. Another layup.
The inside game was working for Texas on both ends. Disu had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Timmy Allen nine points, 12 rebounds and drew the most difficult defensive assignment of the night, as he had to defend PSU’s Jalen Pickett.
The perimeter game finally came on late for Texas. Sir’Jabari Rice — the star of the first-round game — had 13 points, but only made one 3-pointer and scored most of his points late. In fact, his 3-pointer was Texas’ only 3-pointer. Carr had 10 points and atoned for a late mistake that allowed PSU to cut the lead to three points by making two free throws to ice the game.
But, without Disu, Texas would have been through. And that’s enough Dr. Seuss for this story.
How Penn State Lost
Two things got the Nittany Lions in this one, even though they never let it get away from them.
First, the 3-point shooting that served them so well against Texas A&M on Thursday night did little for them against Texas. Sure, PSU made eight of them. But it shot 28.6 percent from there on 28 attempts. Make a couple more and the Nittany Lions might have won.
When the 3-point shooting did click, that’s what allowed Penn State to trim a double-digit Texas lead and take its own lead in the second half. But once the well went dry, and Disu took over, the game got away from the Nittany Lions again.
Second, the Longhorns did a solid job on Pickett, one of the most talented players in the tournament. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds. He normally averages 18 points per game. So, all-in-all a solid job by Allen to keep Pickett from having that much of an impact on the game.
Camren Winter had 16 points but didn’t make a 3-pointer. Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy had 12 and 11 points, respectively, and both had two 3-pointers.
But not enough Pickett and an inability to defend Disu did them in.
A BIG Night for Texas
This is the job Texas hired Chris Beard to get done. But, Beard is gone. So this is the job — and the expectations — Terry inherited.
So far, they’re fulfilled. Texas had not been a No. 2 seed since 2008. Texas had not been to a Sweet 16 since 2008.
Rick Barnes never did it after that. Shaka Smart never did it. Beard never did that.
But Terry did. You can quibble that they’re ‘Beard’s players,” but he coached them. And he coached them well. And he had a good feel for the game on Saturday, taking two key time outs that put Texas in position to win and slowed down Penn State rallies.
I’ve said all season that if Terry gets Texas to at least the Sweet 16, he should get serious consideration for the job. So, athletic director Chris Del Conte, my challenge to you is this:
Find a reason, based on what happened on the court this season, to say no?
Your excuses are dwindling.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard