North Carolina State won its third straight game with a thrilling 83-81 overtime victory over the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes, Saturday afternoon at home in PNC arena. It’s the sixth win in seven games since a road loss to Miami back on Dec. 10. The win moves the Pack to 14-4 overall and 4-3 in the ACC.

The three-game winning streak comes since the injury to starter Jack Clark, meaning State is playing without two starters. It will be great news if and when Dusan Marhorcic is able to recover from patella surgery and return to the lineup. But the team is just better with Clark on the sidelines.

The unexpected star today was Ernest Ross, who came off the bench to give 17 points and 9 rebounds at Clark’s power forward position. Greg Gantt has been getting the starts with Clark out and he’s given a nice defensive presence and has essentially matched Clark’s performance on the boards. Today, Gantt had 7 points and 6 rebounds.

State built a 10-point halftime lead thanks to forcing a bunch of Miami turnovers and converting those into points. But the Hurricanes cleaned up the turnovers in the second half and continued their hot-shooting ways. Still, it looked like State was going to win this one in regulation, until Miami hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to tie the game. State had the ball for the last shot but ran the clogged-toilet offense before hoisting up a wild 3-point shot that missed to send the game to overtime.

DJ Burns had an incredible game, as he finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, including two assists in overtime. At first it seemed Burns was allergic to passing the ball. Now he’s making terrific passes of all shapes to feed open teammates. Many wondered how Burns would fare moving from the Big South Conference to the ACC. But Burns has proven to be able to score against all competition. He finished the game with a +13, a pretty amazing number given the two-point final margin.

The previous time out, State picked up a road win in Blacksburg, defeating Va. Tech, 73-69. State’s backcourt of Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Casey Morsell combined for 58 points in the game.

The winning streak started with a resounding 84-60 defeat of No. 16 Duke. This time the big three was Burns, Joiner & Smith, who combined for 63 points in the win. The first half was Duke simply not playing well. In the second half, Duke shot 50% from the floor and still got outscored by two points. State played the way we hope it will all the time in that second half, playing great on offense and giving a strong effort – if not always great results – on defense. Without exaggeration, it was a season-saving win.

The Duke win came on the heels of a 78-64 road loss at Clemson. State shot just 30.9% for the game and you’re simply not going to win many road games when the shots are missing to that extent. Prior to the Clemson game was a neutral-court win over Vanderbilt in Chicago and a home win over Louisville, both by closer-than-expected margins.

Prior to the second Miami game, ESPN Bracketology had State safely in the NCAA tournament with a No. 9 seed. After the Miami win, KenPom had State ranked #36. For a team that started league play 1-3, it’s about a good of outcome as could possibly be expected.

Next up is back-to-back road games, first against a Georgia Tech squad that has had Kevin Keatts’ number and then against the Evil Empire in Chapel Hill. Keatts is just 1-4 against Tech while in Raleigh and just 2-8 against UNC.

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