Making a mockery of those who thought they would be tired after playing five games in five days … checks notes … despite four days of rest, No, 11 N.C. State ran away from No. 6 Texas Tech, 80-67, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the Pack’s first NCAA tourney win since 2015, when they beat No. 1 Villanova, which also happened in Pittsburgh.

DJ Burns missed his first four shots. But after that, State dominated with their big men. Ben Middlebrooks came off the bench to contribute a game-high 21 points, Mo Diarra added 17 points and 12 rebounds and Burns had 16. State enjoyed a 42-20 edge in points in the paint.

It was back-and-forth early in the first half, until State pulled away late, building a seven-point lead after Middlebrooks converted an and 1 with 34 seconds left. But Texas Tech hit a three as time expired to cut the Pack’s lead to four at the half, 37-33.

State led the entire second half, although Tech was down just by two after hitting a couple of free throws with 14:28 remaining. Shortly afterwards, the Pack went on a 9-0 run to build a double-digit lead. And Tech was unable to get closer than nine points the rest of the game.

It was another good night shooting for State but with as many points in the paint as it got, that wasn’t a big surprise. The Pack ended up hitting 50.9% of their shots and went to the line 26 times, converting 21 of them for a strong 80.8% mark from the charity stripe.

An under-reported story in this run has been State both getting to the line frequently and converting a high number of their attempts.

Each team had 10 turnovers in the game but the Pack converted those into 16 points, while the Red Raiders managed just five.

Tech shot 38.7% from the floor, the third-straight game State has held its opponent to under 40% shooting. The Pack isn’t a great defensive team – although Casey Morsell and Jayden Taylor are good one-on-one defenders. But they play really hard on that end of the floor, if not always smart.

A patient team should be able to get open shots. It’s why Virginia was the squad that gave State the toughest game in this six-game hot streak. But you still have to knock down the open shots and that’s easier said than done this time of year when every possession has big-time ramifications.

In the opening game of the night session, No. 14 Oakland upset No. 3 Kentucky, 80-76. The Golden Grizzlies pulled off the upset by shooting better from behind the arc than they did overall, hitting 15-31 3-point shots, compared to 11-32 on two-point baskets.

State will play Oakland in the next round, with game time yet to be determined. One thing to keep in mind is that Ramadan will last throughout the tournament. Part of the ritual is for Muslims to refrain from eating or drinking from sun up to sun down. State was fortunate with the late start in the opening game, meaning Diarra was able to both eat and drink before the start of the game. Hopefully their next game will be a late start, too.

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