DES MOINES, Iowa (KXAN) — The Texas men’s basketball team shined in its opening-round showdown of the NCAA Tournament, winning 81-61 over Colgate.
The second-seeded Longhorns are now one win away from making the second weekend for the first time since 2008.
Making the Sweet 16 would be a meaningful feat for Texas as the previous five times they reached March Madness, the Longhorns fell in the first or second round.
“It would be a surreal moment,” Longhorns senior forward Timmy Allen said about potentially reaching the Sweet 16. “It would be exactly what we envisioned since the day we got here. We came here with a plan.”
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Reaching that coveted second weekend will be no easy feat having to face one of the hottest teams in the country, Penn State. The Nittany Lions were seemingly fighting to even get in the tournament before they ripped off five straight wins en route to a Big Ten Championship Game appearance.
In its first-round matchup, 10th-seeded Penn State blew out Texas A&M 76-59. Boasting a largely balanced attack, 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’ve broken down some of his film. He’s a guy that can get a lot of buckets himself, rebound the ball, pass the ball. That’s something I admire.”
Longhorns like Allen and Brock Cunningham know what it is like to be in the tournament with Texas. While freshmen and transfers alike are new to that experience, they’ve quickly realized the expectation that comes with the territory.
“Honestly, I wasn’t too hyped last night,” Longhorns graduate transfer guard Jabari Rice said about the win over Colgate. “Last year we got a win in the tournament. If I was at New Mexico State, I would have been really hyped because that’s the goal to get one win in the tournament. But I think we have a bigger goal than that.”
While the Longhorns know the task in front of them is a tall one, it goes both ways. Texas is playing some outstanding basketball. Their coach calls it the best they’ve played all season.
“They played really hard and unselfish as a team,” Longhorns interim head coach Rodney Terry said. “They’ve been really connected. I’ve been really proud of this group.”
Despite the dominant efforts by Penn State of late, the Longhorns still enter the showdown Saturday as a 5.5-point favorite according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Nittany Lions and Longhorns are set to tip at 6:45 p.m. Saturday evening in Des Moines.