Dylan Disu scored a season-high 28 points on 14-of-20 shooting, steadying Texas down the stretch after a late surge by Penn State and leading the Longhorns to their first regional in 15 years with a 71-game victory -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 range, so Disu turned this 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 play the winner of Pittsburgh-Xavier on Friday in the Midwest semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri. The 11th-seeded Panthers and the third-seeded Musketeers will meet on Sunday.
Camren Wynter had 16 points for the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions (23-14) who were coming off their first NCAA Tournament victory 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) rebounded after a scoreless first half each, but the top two 3-point shooters in the Big Ten this season went a combined 4-of-16. Penn State went 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 3-pointers Thursday, connected for a 55-48 lead.
Nittany Lions responded with a 10-0 run. Myles Dread, the only guy with an outside pace, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 6:08 remaining 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 to the backcourt for a Texas turnover that Lundy converted for a layup to put the game up. 58-55.
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But Disu came back with three straight baskets, a layup, a jumper and a spin to give Texas the lead for good. Wynter got a crucial back-and-forth call in 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 remaining for a four-point play that turned the game into a possession, but Carr finished the game with a pair of free throws. After the final horn, Allen broke into a big smile as he reached over to Rice to hug her and yell, «Sweet 16, baby!»
Texas last reached the regional semifinals in 2008 and hasn’t reached the Final Four since 2003. Interim coach Rodney Terry was an assistant on that team, and the longhorns, who have strong ties, have made no secret of their love for his modest and scratchy equipment. Voiced leader who took office in December from Chris Beard in the aftermath of a since-dropped domestic violence charge.
WITHOUT ‘D’ FOR DISU
The Nittany Lions did a good job defending a Texas team that went 13 of 23 from 3-point range in the first round, but Disu was a different story. Hailing from Pflugerville, Texas, just outside of Austin, Disu joined the Longhorns last season after beginning his career at Vanderbilt.
Disu, named the Big 12 Tournament 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 floaties 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 squeezed the best Colgate 3-point shot in the country in their first-round win, as the Raiders went 3-for-15 from long range.
Penn State presented the same perimeter threat, ranked fifth in the nation and had just finished a 13-for-23 clinic in a first-round win over Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions set the all-time Big Ten single-season record for three-pointers made.
However, this Texas defense has some sharp teeth. The Longhorns held their previous five opponents, including Kansas twice and TCU, to an average of 57 points per game. Funk stopped from the right wing for a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the game that hit the front of the rim, a sign of how the night would play out. Carr, Rice, and Tyrese Hunter took turns following him.