Texas suspends late Penn State rally to move to Sweet 16
Dylan Disu had a season-high 28 points on 14-for-20 shooting, stabilizing Texas in stride after a late push from Penn State and leading the Longhorns to their first region in 15 years with a 71- 66 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.
The second-seeded Longhorns (28-8) made just one of 13 shots from 3-point field, so Disu turned that into a midrange game. He went 5 for 5 in the final 4 1/2 minutes and grabbed 10 rebounds for good measure.
Sir’Jabari Rice scored 13 points for Texas, which will face the Pittsburgh-Xavier winner Friday in the Midwest Region semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri. The 11th-seeded Panthers and the third-seeded Musketeers meet on Sunday.
Camren Wynter had 16 points for the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions (23-14), who were coming off their first NCAA Tournament win in 20 years. Second-team All-American Jalen Pickett had 11 points and 10 rebounds with seven turnovers.
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Andrew Funk (12 points) and Seth Lundy (11 points) rallied after a scoreless first half for each, but the Big Ten’s top two 3-point shooters this season went 4-for-16. Penn State was 8 for 28 from deep, despite a steady stream of clean looks in the second half.
The outside shots each team relied on in the first round mostly dried up, with the Longhorns going 31:18 without one until Rice, who hit seven 3s on Thursday, connected for a 55 lead. -48.
Nittany Lions responded with a 10-0 run. Myles Dread, the only guy with outside pace, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 6:08 left to cut the deficit to one. After Wynter gave Penn State its first lead since 4-3 with a pair of free throws, Timmy Allen threw a wild pass into the backcourt for a Texas turnover that Lundy found for a layup to carry him at 58-55.
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But Disu came back with three consecutive baskets, a layup, a jumper and a turnover to put Texas back in the lead for good. Wynter took a crucial round-trip call on a timeout with 1:59 left that Marcus Carr followed with a layup for Texas.
Carr fouled Lundy on a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left for a four-point play that made it a one-possession play, but Carr ended the game with a pair of free throws. After the final horn, Allen flashed a big smile as he approached Rice for a hug and shouted “Sweet 16, baby!”
Texas last went to the regional semi-finals in 2008 and haven’t made the Final Four since 2003. Interim coach Rodney Terry was an assistant on that team, and the tightly-knit Longhorns won’t have made no secret of their love for their lowly, raucous-spoken leader who took over in December from Chris Beard in the fallout of a since-dismissed domestic violence charge.
NO ‘D’ FOR DISU
The Nittany Lions did a good job defending a Texas team that went 13-for-23 from 3-pointers in the first round, but Disu was a different story. A native of Pflugerville, Texas, just outside of Austin, Disu joined the Longhorns last season after starting his career at Vanderbilt.
Disu, named the Big 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, is the tallest player at 6-foot-9 on this guard-dominated team. His long arms and his ability to gently drop those rainbow floats in and around the paint, a skill he recently added to his game, make him play bigger than he is.
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The Longhorns pressed Colgate’s best 3-point shot in the nation in their first-round win, when the Raiders went 3-for-15 from long range.
Penn State presented the same perimeter threat, ranked fifth in the nation and fresh off a 13-for-23 clinic in the first-round win over Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions set the all-time Big Ten single-season record for 3-pointers made.
This Texas defense has some sharp teeth, though. The Longhorns have held their previous five opponents, including Kansas twice and TCU, to an average of 57 points per game. Funk pulled out from the right wing for a 3-pointer just 14 seconds from the start of the game that hit the front of the rim in a sign of how the night was going to unfold. Carr, Rice and Tyrese Hunter followed him in turn.