No one gave N.C. State a chance in its Sweet 16 matchup with No. 2 Marquette. The Big East club, the story went, just had too much going for it. They shot better, had more weapons and would force too many turnovers for the No. 11 Wolfpack to handle. Well, time to come up with another narrative. State built a 16-point lead and while the Pack didn’t play particularly well down the stretch, they maintained their composure, refused to break and came out with a 67-58 win. With the victory, State advances to the Elite Eight for the first since 1986.

The Pack fell behind 5-2 early. But when DJ Horne made a jumper at the 15:51 mark, State took a 9-7 advantage and they held the lead for the rest of the game. DJ Burns made a layup with 88 seconds remaining in the half that put the Wolfpack up by 14 and they took a 13-point lead into intermission.

A Casey Morsell 3-point bucket at 18:20 gave State its largest lead of the game at 40-24. The Golden Eagles cut the lead to six points with 3:39 remaining. But Morsell followed with a jumper and then Horne rebounded a miss on the other end and handed out a dime to Michael O’Connell, who hit a 3-pointer to essentially ice the game, as it put the Wolfpack up by 11 with just 96 seconds left in the game.

Coach Kevin Keatts ended up putting in subs in the final minute.

One of the key factors in the game was a poor shooting night for Marquette, as it hit just 33.3% from the floor and a dismal 4-31 from behind the arc. Perhaps more of an off night for the Golden Eagles but the Pack should get some credit defensively, too. They did an excellent job limiting the point production for Marquette’s big men. The two starting post players and one inside reserve combined for just 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Mo Diarra, who had to play most of the game without food or water as he observed Ramadan, which prohibits food or drink while the sun is up, had 11 points and 15 rebounds by himself.

Horne had 19 points and hit 4-7 from behind the 3-point line. Morsell had 15 points and played a good defensive game, too. Burns was held to just four points, but he still made an impact as he handed out seven assists.

Keatts talks a lot about his team having trust in one another. While most of the focus is on Burns, this game was indicative of how State has many contributors and can win in a bunch of different ways. Marquette came into the game averaging 78.6 ppg. State held them to just 58 points, only the fourth time in 37 games they were held under 60.

In three NCAA games so far, State has won them by a combined 28 points. This is not some Cinderella team winning on last-second shots. Rather, it’s beaten two higher-seeded teams by 13 and nine, respectively.

State’s game in the Elite Eight will be a rematch against Duke, as the Blue Devils took advantage of an injury to Houston’s point guard in the first half to edge the No.1 Cougars, 54-51. The Pack got blown out in a regular season game against Duke, only to turn around and beat the Devils by five in the ACC Tournament.

Is it better to play a Duke team that will be guaranteed not to take them lightly or would it have been better to play a Houston squad without arguably its best player? That’s a question that’s impossible to answer. But the matchup State gets allows us to make another comparison to the 1983 Champion Pack squad.

In the ACC Tournament 41 years ago, State beat Virginia, only to face them again in the Elite Eight game. The Pack won that game and moved on to the Final Four. Let’s hope history repeats itself again, this time with Duke in place of Virginia. The game is set to tip off at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday.

Three ACC teams have made the Elite Eight and the conference has an 11-2 mark in the tournament. Perhaps the bottom 3-4 teams in the league aren’t very good but there’s a lot of strength in the top 10 or so teams in the league.

2 comments on “State blitzes No. 2 Marquette to advance to the Elite Eight


    Time to show who officially runs the Research Triangle. Go Pack!

    • Brian Joura

      Hopefully State can defend them as well as Houston did and hold them under 60 points.

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