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Know Your Enemy: No. 10 Penn State Hoops vs. No. 2 Texas Longhorns

Thursday night was fun, wasn’t it?

No. 10-seeded Penn State men’s basketball put the world on blast in its 76-59 upset over No. 7-seeded Texas A&M, and now it’s ready to continue its Cinderella run against No. 2-seeded Texas. The Nittany Lions won thanks to a monster 27-point performance by Andrew Funk and Jalen Pickett’s respectable 19 points and eight assists. The standout performances by the two seniors garnered national attention and put college basketball fans on notice.

The Nittany Lions and the Longhorns tip off at 7:45 p.m. ET tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, in what should be a tough battle between one of the best teams in the country and one of the hottest.

This is what March Madness is all about.

History could repeat itself Saturday, as the last time Penn State played the No. 2 seed in the Round of 32, it pulled off the biggest upset in school history, beating UNC 82-74.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Longhorns ahead of tip-off.

Overview

The biggest stat that stuck out from the Longhorns’ opening-round match with No. 15-seeded Colgate was how poorly Colgate shot from behind the arc. The Raiders were the best three-point shooting team in the entire country, and they only shot 20% from three. On the flip side, Texas shot 56.5% from three, led by Sir’Jabari Rice’s 23 points and seven threes. Something must’ve been in the air in Des Moines.

It would be surprising if Rice or Funk continued to sink threes at a ridiculously high rate, but fans should observe how Texas took away Colgate’s primary offensive method. It led to a route, with the Longhorns winning 81-61. They have the capability to take away the opposing team’s strengths and proved it against the Raiders. It helps their scouting that Penn State plays a very similar style of offense.

Texas’ defense is the scariest aspect of this team. It ranks No. 17 nationally in turnovers forced with 16.06 per game and is tied at No. 46 nationally in steals per game with eight. The Longhorns forced 11 turnovers and seven steals in their opening-round matchup against Colgate.

This isn’t the worst news for the Nittany Lions. They take care of the ball and are ranked No. 4 nationally in turnovers per game with only nine. While the defense could make guards like Pickett and Camren Wynter uncomfortable at times, as long as they play smart basketball, they can neutralize one of Texas’ major strengths.

There are major athleticism differences between the two teams. 6’9″ Dylan Disu and 6’7″ Dillon Mitchell could pose size problems right away. Kebba Njie can only guard one of them, so the other will have a great matchup on the offensive end. The guards are also going to be a matchup problem. Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter are some of the best shooters in the game. Surely Penn State fans don’t need to be reminded of how good Carr was back in his Minnesota days.

The true test of this game is who is going to step up offensively for the Nittany Lions. Will Andrew Funk have another career night? Will Seth Lundy continue his hot Big Ten Tournament performance? Will someone like Wynter or Myles Dread break out? Texas will put a huge emphasis on Pickett, so someone else is going to need to be the breakout star for there to be an upset Saturday evening.

Prediction

Most of Onward State’s staff believes this is where Penn State’s season comes to an end. Texas is a solid team, and it’s difficult to see how it can be stopped by the Nittany Lions.

The Nittany Lions will be in this game for all 40 minutes. They will push the Longhorns in ways they have not been pushed all season. If Penn State can take Purdue to the wire, it can take Texas to the wire. But like the game against Purdue, it will fall short of the ultimate goal. The Longhorns will move on to the Sweet Sixteen after a final score of 64-60.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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