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Andrew Funk The Humble Difference Maker In Penn State Hoops’ Program-Defining NCAA Tournament Win

In November, after Penn State men’s basketball’s season-opening victory over Winthrop, head coach Micah Shrewsberry promptly described transfer shooting guard Andrew Funk as an assured second-option shooter.

Funk, a second-team All-Patriot League selection at Bucknell, was secured by Shrewsberry with the hope he’d be a significant role player to help Jalen Pickett through a staunch Big Ten slate.

“He’s not a number one [option], but he took a lot of tough shots at Bucknell because they needed him to,” Shrewsberry said of Funk in November. “We don’t need him to take tough shots.”

The Warrington, Pennsylvania, native earned the captain label in his first season as a Nittany Lion and almost immediately disproved his head coach’s perhaps pessimistic outlook on his capabilities.

Since his first game donning a blue and white jersey, Funk has collected 110 three-point conversions and 451 total points in 36 games. Still, the Patriot League product averaged 12.1 points per game before entering the NCAA Tournament with Penn State, in contrast to the No. 1 Nittany Lion in Pickett with 17.9.

As a secondary option, Funk has been granted golden opportunities to shake his defender, drift to space, and utilize his hot hand to drill a triple when all eyes are on Pickett in the paint. In other words, he’s become accustomed to taking the “tough shots” when the designated scorer can’t pull off a confident attempt.

While Funk most definitely isn’t a hidden transfer portal gem anymore, the scouting reports remain locked on All-American Pickett. In Penn State’s opening-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament against Texas A&M on Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, Funk splashed eight threes for 24 points, plus three foul shots from the stripe for a total of 27.

“With a guy like Pickett, he commands a lot of attention, and the way we were able to play off of him –what we have been doing all year came to fruition tonight,” Funk said after the win.

Posting a season-high point total in a 9:55 p.m. ET tip, the once-guaranteed second-option player became a household name in his March Madness debut.

“Andrew Funk” began trending on Twitter at the No. 8 spot during the Nittany Lions’ beatdown of the Aggies, but the sharpshooter remained humble when pressed about his NCAA Tournament explosion.

“I envisioned us getting to this point and winning a lot of games, but that’s pretty cool, and I’m glad to see that’s cool for me,” Funk said. “This program, it deserves all the attention that we’re getting and we’re going to continue to get. So it means a lot, and I’m really happy to be here doing it for this university and program.”

The Pennsylvania product outpaced the next-highest Nittany Lion scorer by eight points en route to a career and program-defining win for Penn State. Funk’s 80% conversion clip from behind the arc set the tone for Shrewsberry’s group heading forward into the tournament, but also for Penn State basketball itself.

Funk’s electric outing kept those who would otherwise zone out during a blowout locked in past midnight. In an eruption like that, few continue watching the game once their bracket’s been busted, unless a David-esque character earns the attention of those used to Goliaths.

As the legend of Funk spread through the depths of the Power Five conferences on Thursday night, perhaps so did Penn State hoops following its unpredictable postseason run. As each Funk and Penn State are no longer secondary options or victims of conference mockery, Funk and the Nittany Lions will head to the Round of 32 at 7:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 18, to try to continue their national emergence.

“My four years at Bucknell was a part of why I wanted to come here and help this team get here,” Funk said. “So to see it come to fruition is hard to put in words, to be honest.”

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a junior journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is Onward State's managing editor. She also talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese and Kevin Jonas. If you'd like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @keeleylammm or send your best joke to her email [email protected].

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