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Andrew Funk Shoots Penn State Into Round of 32

Andrew Funk

DES MOINES, Iowa — Andrew Funk was searching for more as soon as the shots started dropping. 

It didn’t hurt that Texas A&M couldn’t find him all night.

Funk drilled eight 3-pointers on 10 attempts for a season-high 27 points, leaving A&M with no answers. 

No matter what Texas A&M tried, it couldn’t stick with Funk.

That was a big reason Penn State earned its first NCAA tournament win in 22 years Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Funk knew he was going to have his chances.

“With the offense we play, I know I’m going to get a lot of shots from 3,” Funk said. “When those first two go in, you start hunting them a little bit, and you get into a rhythm, especially in a game like that where our offense is flowing the way it is. The rim opens up a lot, and you get a lot of confidence flowing.”

One week after Illinois coach Brad Underwood admitted the Illini had never guarded Funk properly, Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams ran into the same problem. A&M (25-10) tried to force Jalen Pickett to make quick decisions with the ball. This left Funk open and allowing Pickett to find him repeatedly.

“They play with a low turnover rate, and as soon as you make your decision on how you’re going to help, it’s going to lead to an immediate 3,” Williams said. “Too oftentimes, particularly with 10 (Funk), our help was not distinct. The other three in the rotation, their help in that coverage was not toward the shooters; it was toward watching the ball.”

When A&M did watch the ball, they watched it fly right into the basket. With Andrew Funk seemingly unable to miss, his teammates started looking for him whenever they spotted him in space.

“When Funk gets going, it’s tough (for them) to deal with,” Myles Dread, who picked up a pair of assists on Funk’s 3-pointers, said. “You could tell the way the ball was going in; it wasn’t hitting the rim, and it was barely hitting the net. Once he gets in that zone, I think I passed up a shot to find him.”

But the same proved true in the other direction with Funk’s only assist of the night. With Penn State leading 53-34 and Funk coming off another made triple, he looked up to find Wade Taylor in his face. Rather than force a mediocre look, he tossed the ball to the corner, where Dread was wide open.

Dread drained the 3 to push the lead to 22. The advantage wouldn’t dip below 19 points until the final two minutes.

Dread said Funk is “my guy.”

“I call him “twin” all the time,” Dread said, “because we’re going to find each other, play together, play the right way and make plays. We’re an unselfish team that cares about each other and celebrates each other. We want to win basketball games, and that’s the formula to do it.”

That made it easy for Penn State to focus on finding Andrew Funk once he got rolling. With A&M never adjusting and Funk hitting everything, Penn State knew this would be his time to shine.

“It’s just weapons,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry said. 

“(Thursday) was Funk’s night where he got it going, but Seth (Lundy) has had those games. Pickett has those games, Cam (Wynter), Myles and other guys have stepped up. We just have a lot of weapons we go to and mix it up, and I think that makes us hard to guard. It makes people think I’m a really good coach because I’ve got really good players sitting next to me.”

While Shrewsberry spoke, those players repeatedly said they weren’t surprised by Funk’s hot shooting.

After all, they’ve seen him shoot in practice, and feel he’s been even better there.

“Funk is a cold-blooded killer,” Mikey Henn said. “He’s playing as well as he could right at the right time. He had a big Big Ten tournament, and it’s led into now. We’ve seen that all season from him, really, and for him to go out and do that, every time he shoots the ball, I think it’s going in. I was just hoping he’d get one more off for that 30-pointer.”

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