N.C. State Advances To 1st Final Four Since 1983 After 76-64 Win Over Duke

N.C. State Advances To 1st Final Four Since 1983 After 76-64 Win Over Duke

Bruising big man DJ Burns Jr. scored a season-high 29 points, DJ Horne had 20 and 11th-seeded North Carolina State reached its first Final Four in four decades, beating Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke 76-64 in the South Region final Sunday.

N.C. State (26-14) is back in the national semifinals for the first time since the late Jim Valvano was sprinting around the court looking for someone to hug after winning the 1983 national title with an upset over Houston and Phi Slama Jama.

These Wolfpack head to Glendale, Arizona, next weekend with a nine-game winning streak. After losing their last four regular-season games, and seven of nine, they had to win five games in five days in the ACC Tournament, including a win over Duke in the quarterfinal round, just to get into the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. Now they will play Zach Edey and Purdue in the first national semifinal game, before defending champion UConn takes on Alabama.

“I’ll say like I’ve been saying the whole tournament. When I stop having fun with basketball, I’ll stop playing,” said Burns, who was voted the South Region’s most outstanding player. “There’s just been a total switch in our commitment. Nobody’s being late to things. Nobody’s being a problem on the court. Everybody’s come together.”

Fourth-seeded Duke (27-9), which ousted top seed Houston in the Sweet 16 two nights earlier, missed out on its second Final Four in three seasons after leading by six at halftime and maintaining that margin with 16 1/2 minutes left.

But soon after Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts was called for a technical foul with 8 minutes left, his team had a double-digit lead and was well on its way to becoming the seventh double-digit seed to make the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Jared McCain made both free throws for the technical that Keatts got after officials ruled a missed shot by Duke’s Kyle Filipowski that went over the backboard and off the shot clock went off one of his players. Replays showed that while maybe there should have been a foul since Burns made contact with Filipowski’s arm, the hand of the Wolfpack’s 6-foot-9, 275-pound forward wasn’t even close to the ball.

A minute later, Ben Middlebrooks had a steal that lead to a fast-break 3-pointer by Michael O’Connell. There was a foul called while the ball was in the air, so the Wolfpack kept possession and Burns made another nifty basket for a 53-42 lead.

O’Connell had six points, but finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

McCain led Duke with 32 points, the freshman guard hitting 8 of 20 shots and making all 11 of his free throws. Jeremy Roach had 13 points while 7-foot center Filipowski had 11 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 4:52 left and the Blue Devils already down eight.

None of the double-digit seeds have even made it to the national championship game, but the raucous Wolfpack fans chanted “Why not us, why not us?” before their team cut down the nets in Big D — about 1,200 miles from Tobacco Road where the N.C. State and Duke campuses are only about a half-hour drive from each other.

During the game’s first media timeout, they even got to watch on the big video boards in the arena as the N.C. State women dribbled out the final 26 seconds of their regional final victory over Texas to also advance to the Final Four.

Burns hit short jumpers on the first two shots of the game by the Wolfpack, but those were their only consecutive makes before halftime while shooting 26.5% (9 of 34) and trailing 27-21.

They certainly turned that around with a 55-point second half in which they made 19 of 26 shots (73.1%). Burns went 9 of 11 after halftime.

Duke made only 19 field goals the entire game, shooting a season-worst 32.2% on its 59 attempts. The Blue Devils became the sixth consecutive opponent held under 40% shooting by N.C. State.

“We never had any rhythm on offense,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “They started to score more and our offense, it was probably the most disjointed game that we’ve played all year.”

UP NEXT

N.C. State and Purdue are meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness