N.C. State exploded for 55 points in the second half to turn a 6-point halftime deficit into a 76-64 win over the Duke Blue Devils and a trip to the Final Four. It will be State’s first trip to the Final Four since 1983, when they won it all.

The one thing that State hadn’t experienced in its winning streak was to fall behind by a big margin. With 1:40 to go in the first half, Duke had a dunk that put it up, 27-18. Jayden Taylor made an old-fashioned three-point play to cut the deficit to 27-21 at the half.

In the opening 20 minutes, the Pack couldn’t buy a bucket, as they hit just 26.5% of their shots, with only DJ Burns providing offense. But Duke wasn’t playing much better on offense and was ahead largely due to a 9-2 edge in made free throws.

But it was a different story after intermission. State made nine of its first 12 shots from the floor in the second half to take a 42-38 lead. A jumper during the run by DJ Horne gave the Pack the lead at 11:49 and they retained that for the rest of the game.

Burns finished with 29 points while Horne added 20. State ended up hitting 46.7% of its shots in the game after converting 73.1% of its shots from the floor in the second half.

One of the storylines heading into the battle was how well Duke’s defense had been in the NCAA Tournament. In three games, the most points it had given up was 55 and the highest shooting percentage by an opponent was 41%. State exceeded both of those marks and because of that, the Pack is advancing to Phoenix.

It should be noted that Duke shot just 32.2% for the game. It was the sixth-straight contest where State held its opponent to under 40% shooting. Last game, people wanted to say it was just a poor shooting night for Marquette. But perhaps the Pack deserves more credit for their play on the defensive side of the ball.

They’ll need another great defensive effort, as they go up against 7’4 Zach Edey and Purdue in the semi-final game. The Boilermakers won their 33rd game of the year with a 72-66 win over Tennessee. Edey had 40 of their 72 points and also grabbed 16 rebounds in the game. He’s going to be an extremely difficult player to stop.

But the Pack held 7’0 Duke center Kyle Filipowski to 11 points on 3-12 shooting before he fouled out. Burns won the matchup with Filipowski – although he rarely checked the Duke center. It will be interesting to see how Purdue looks to guard Burns. Earlier this year, Burns had great difficulty with players with a big height advantage and Edey will be the biggest player he’s faced. But it’s a different Burns now than we saw most of the regular season.

One last thing to consider here. When State won it all in 1983, the Mets followed with a World Series championship three years later. May the stars align just like that here in the 21st Century.

5 comments on “The Pack earns an Easter Sunday win over the Devils to punch their ticket to the Final Four

  • AgingBull

    Congratulations, Brian. And you have the rare double final four with the women’s team beating Texas. Great fun. Good luck!

    • Brian Joura

      I actually saw 4 women’s games in person this year.

      In the Sweet 16, they remarkably had the men and the women playing on the same day at the same time. Didn’t see any of the women’s game. In the Elite Eight they played on the same day but the women’s game was earlier. I saw most of the women, missing the final minutes but by then they had a healthy lead.

      Looks like they’ll be playing on different days in the Final Four.


    Congrats Brian. Go Pack!

  • JTOB

    Congratulations on NC State’s remarkable run. To get there they had to beat Duke twice. Since I’m a Dookie, it was very frustrating but given how much you do for us here, I’m glad your team brought you a lot of joy.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks – I appreciate that.

      Younger fans think it’s all about UNC and Duke because that’s been the reality for the past 35 years. But the ACC needs State to be on an equal footing to those two programs. Hopefully what we witnessed at the end of this past season is Step 1 in making that happen.

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