State knocked down 33 free throws and converted 16 Louisville turnovers into 22 points en route to a season-high in points, as they won their opening round game in the ACC Tournament with a 94-85 win over the Cardinals. State advances to the second round, where they’ll take on Syracuse at 7 p.m. The Orange won both regular season games.

Louisville is the worst team in the league but with the way the Pack closed the season, they couldn’t afford to look past anyone. And things got even tougher when 3rd-team All-ACC performer DJ Horne was unable to play. Perhaps because of that, State got off to a poor start, as Louisville jumped out to a 23-11 lead.

The Cardinals had a great night shooting the ball, as they spent most of the first half converting over 70% of their shots, before closing out the first 20 minutes shooting 67% from both the floor and from behind the arc. The problem was turnovers, which allowed the Pack to stay close.

At the 13:29 mark of the first half, DJ Burns committed his second foul and he sat for the rest of the half. And with Mo Diarra and Ben Middlebrooks on the floor, State got back into the game. They cut the deficit to one point at the half, 46-45.

Without Horne at all and for Burns for most of the first half, State had a balanced scoring attack, getting surprising points from both Casey Morsell and Michael O’Connell. Morsell has been a frequent target in this space but he had a team-high 25 points, including a perfect 13-13 from the line. O’Connell went 5-9 from the floor and 5-6 from the line for 16 points. Both players finished with a +12 in the game.

Jayden Taylor had 18, Burns added 12 and Middlebrooks finished with 11 to give State five players in double figures.

In addition to their big edge in free throws and points off turnovers, the Pack held the advantage in points in the paint (36-32). second-chance points (9-7) and bench points (19-5). So, just how on earth did Louisville keep the game close? It continued to shoot well in the second half, specifically from 3-point land, where it converted 10-18 shots for 55.6% shooting from deep.

Skyy Clark hit 12-17 shots, including 7-9 from behind the arc for a game-high 36 points to pace Louisville. But he also had six turnovers.

State fans entered the tournament wondering if this would be the last game for coach Kevin Keatts. But a win extends his career in Raleigh for at least one more day. That’s likely more than Louisville coach Kenny Payne will have. At two years at the helm of his alma mater, Payne has guided the club to a 12-52 record.

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