Penn State dominates Texas A&M, advances in NCAA Tournament for first time since 2001

Going into the NCAA Tournament, the goal is to be playing the best basketball of the season by the time the games start.

Penn State has been doing that in March.

After a great run before the Big Ten Tournament to get themselves into the March Madness conversation, they cemented themselves in the field by making the championship game. Even though they lost on the last possession, it was clear this Penn State team was peaking at the right time.

But, the NCAA Tournament was going to be a different challenge. Facing a Texas A&M team from a different conference whose style of play was different than what they’ve seen before was supposed to be a test of how good this team actually was.

The Nittany Lions answered all questions tonight winning 76-59.

This was a historic win for Penn State. It was the first NCAA Tournament win since 2001. It was the largest margin of victory for the program in NCAA Tournament history. Andrew Funk’s 27 points were the most by a Penn State player in NCAA Tournament history.

It was also a weird game in many ways for Nittany Lions fans. This felt like the first time in about a month that the game didn’t come down to the wire.

That’s because Penn State rarely trailed in this game. After trailing 2-4 in the first couple minutes of the game, Funk hit a three to put them back on top. Funk hitting threes was the theme of the game.

About five minutes into the first half, Texas A&M was up four points. That was their largest lead of the game. Once again, Funk hit a three to cut the lead to one point. After seesawing back and forth for a bit, Jalen Pickett hit a jumper that put Penn State up 13-12 at the 11-and-a-half-minute mark.

They never trailed in the game again.

It was an utterly dominant performance by Penn State. They shot 48.2% from the field and a scorching 59.1% from behind the three-point line. They also held A&M to 33.9% shooting and 29.4% from three. This was easily the best game this team had played all season.

Funk was the star of the game tonight. He hit eight threes on 10 attempts to finish with the NCAA Tournament record of 27 points. Pickett was his usual dominant self, finishing with 19 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Seth Lundy joined them in double figures with 10 points.

But it was truly a team effort. Camren Wynter didn’t light up the box score, but he played a major part in frustrating Texas A&M’s best player Wade Taylor IV. Freshmen Kebba Njie and Evan Mahaffey had important stretches stifling the opposing bigs.

Penn State fans should be celebrating this historic victory because it was a long time coming.

They’ll be facing the second-seeded Texas Longhorns in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday for the opportunity to play in the Sweet 16.

More Basketball!

Twitter reacts to Penn State's massive win against Texas A&M

Report Card: Penn State puts on dominant showing against Texas A&M

Inside the box score: Key stats from Penn State's first round rout of Texas A&M

Best photos from Penn State's NCAA Tournament win over Texas A&M

NCAA basketball tournament odds: Penn State vs. Texas A&M

Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire