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Penn State Basketball: Texas’ Disu Proves Too Much

Penn State Basketball
Photo by Penn State Athletics

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock hit seven minutes in its 71-66 loss to Texas, the script looked familiar for Penn State basketball. 

Just as it had in the Big Ten Tournament against Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana and even Purdue, Penn State was about to make its charge.

Sure enough, the team unleashed a 10-0 run over the next two minutes.

It turned a seven-point deficit into a three-point lead. 

But this time, Dylan Disu had the answer to Penn State’s defense.

The Texas big man never missed.

Over the last five minutes, Disu hit five consecutive shots for 10 of his game-high 28 points. This swung the game back to the Longhorns. Texas ended up scoring on its final eight possessions. By the end, Texas turned away Penn State and ended its season in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

It was a type of challenge Penn State hadn’t seen this season.

“We’ve never played against a big man with that type of touch,” Penn State guard Seth Lundy said. “I don’t remember him missing one floater. He would do it from 10 feet, 15 feet, 5 feet; he made it every single time. We play small, and it was hard to contest it, even when we did come up and contest it.”

That was the thing that staggered Penn State (23-14). Disu wasn’t the main man the Nittany Lions were worried about. Penn State wanted to keep Timmy Allen and Marcus Carr from taking over the game for Texas (28-8). For the most part, it succeeded. Allen scored just two points in the second half, and Texas’ 3-point shooters never got going. Texas sank just one for 13 from behind the arc, seemingly opening the door for Penn State.

But Disu made sure the Penn State basketball couldn’t walk through it. The Big 12 tournament’s MVP continued his run in Des Moines with his strongest game of the season, taking and making the shots Penn State had to give up against Texas’ abundance of weapons.

“We wanted to attack the paint all night long,” Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “We knew we had a size advantage, and we knew we had a guy that could score the ball that’s playing at a very high level inside. Our game plan was to get the ball into the paint and score in the paint.”

Texas won the battle of points in the paint, scoring 40 of its 71 points in the lane. But it also came up big on contested looks down low. Even when Penn State got a hand in Disu’s face, the forward still won the battle.

Until Saturday, that wasn’t something that Penn State had faced. Purdue handled Penn State’s defense on three occasions, but the Boilermakers also had Zach Edey and his 7-foot-4 frame dominating the inside. This was different: this was a big man making plays away from the hoop and getting the shot to go down.

“Dylan Disu was really good, and I thought this was the first time someone has cracked the code of our ball screen defense,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “He got into the middle and made a bunch of plays, but credit to those other guys around him.”

That might be one of the biggest reasons this Texas squad has Final Four potential: Disu’s presence gives it too many weapons for opponents to shut them all down. He’s now scored in double figures in seven of eight games, and even with Carr and Allen relegated to supporting players, Penn State just didn’t have enough length or bodies to keep Disu from taking over the contest.

“You’ve got to pick your poison a bit, especially with a team as talented as they are,” Penn State guard Andrew Funk said. “He’s hitting tough shots with those floaters and 10 to 12-footers. That’s tough to guard, and it’s been a shot that we’ve had to live with all year.”

For Funk, Disu played a big part in the result.

But he also felt there were plenty of things Penn State basketball could have done to change the outcome. 

“He burned us on them (Saturday), but there’s other things that we could have done both defensively and offensively,” he said. “You live with the result, and you tip your cap.”

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