DES MOINES, Iowa (KXAN) — The Texas men’s basketball team shined in the opening round showdown of the NCAA Tournament, winning 81-61 over Colgate.
The second seed Longhorns are now one win away from their second weekend for the first time since 2008.
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Making the Sweet 16 would be a significant feat for Texas as the previous five times they have reached March Madness, the Longhorns have fallen in the first or second round.
“It would be a surreal moment,” Longhorns senior forward Timmy Allen said of potentially making the Sweet 16. “It would be exactly what we’ve been envisioning since the day we got here. We came here with a plan.”
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Reaching that coveted second weekend won’t be an easy feat facing one of the hottest teams in the country, Penn State. The Nittany Lions were seemingly struggling to get into the tournament before snapping off a five-game hitting streak en route to a Big Ten Championship Game appearance.
In its first round matchup, 10th seed Penn State knocked out Texas A&M 76-59. Boasting a largely balanced offense, the Nittany Lions are led by senior Jalen Pickett. The team leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals, Texas will need to figure out how to slow Pickett down.
“I think he’s a great player,” Allen said. “We broke down part of the film about him. He’s a guy who can hit a lot of buckets by himself, bounce the ball, pass the ball. It’s something I admire.
Longhorns like Allen and Brock Cunningham know what it’s like to be in the tournament with Texas. While freshmen and transfers alike are new to that experience, they’ve quickly realized the expectations that come with the turf.
“Honestly, I wasn’t too excited last night,” said Longhorns graduate transfer guard Jabari Rice of the win over Colgate. “Last year we had a victory in the tournament. If I was in the state of New Mexico, I would have been really excited because that’s the goal of getting a win in the tournament. But I think we have a bigger goal than that.”
Longhorns’ Rodney Terry is not your typical interim head coach heading into March Madness
While the Longhorns know the task ahead of them is daunting, it goes both ways. Texas is playing outstanding basketball. Their coach calls him the best they’ve played all season.
“They played really hard and selfless as a team,” Longhorns interim head coach Rodney Terry said. “They really connected. I was really proud of this group.”
Despite Penn State’s dominant efforts of late, the Longhorns still enter the showdown on Saturday as 5.5-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Nittany Lions and Longhorns will tip Saturday night at 6:45 pm in Des Moines.