N.C. State’s uplifting run in the NCAA Tournament came to an end in the Final Four, as their offense was non-existent in a 63-50 semi-final loss to Purdue Saturday. The Pack finish the season with a 26-15 record.

If you had said that the defense would hold Purdue to 63 points, you’d feel pretty good about State’s chances to win. But 7’4 Zach Edey was an intimidating factor down low and the Pack was ice cold from distance, as they went 5-19 from behind the arc.

Purdue led wire to wire in the game. Edey scored 14 points in the first half, as the Boilermakers built a 12-point lead. But with DJ Burns on the bench with two fouls and Michael O’Connell out with a hamstring injury, State battled back. A 3-point shot by DJ Horne with 39 seconds left in the half cut the deficit to three points. But Purdue countered with a three-pointer of its own to bring the lead up to six at the half.

State hit just one of their first nine shots in the second half, turned the ball over twice in that span and any momentum they had gained at the close of the first half disappeared.

Edey hit 9-14 shots and the rest of the team was 13-41. It was a nice execution of the gameplan from the defensive side of things. Sure, you could have asked for better defensive rebounding and some better work on closing out on 3-point shooters. But Purdue came in averaging 83.5 points per game and hadn’t scored fewer than 67 points all season.

For years, people complained about the defense under coach Kevin Keatts. But the Pack made tremendous strides on that side of the ball this season and they played great defensively in the NCAAs.

Horne led the way with 20 points but the less said about the offense in this game by State, the better.

This was the final collegiate game for Burns, Horne and Casey Morsell (0-5 shooting). Earlier, reserve guard LJ Thomas put his name in the portal. So, there will be at least four newcomers for the Pack next season. You never know who else is going to put their name in the portal. It wouldn’t be a shock if any or all of Breon Pass, MJ Rice, Ernest Ross and Kam Woods join Thomas in looking for greener pastures.

But hopefully State will return Mo Diarra, Ben Middlebrooks, O’Connell, Dennis Parker Jr. and Jayden Taylor. They have two four-star players incoming with combo guard Trey Parker and wing Paul McNeil. Parker was originally part of last year’s recruiting class but he reclassified and played this past season at Overtime Elite. McNeil set a NC high school record with 71 points in a game. And that came with a running clock in the second half and with McNeil sitting out the final three minutes of the game.

And the Pack have already brought in a player from the portal, signing former Louisville big man Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, a 6’10 player who should take Burns’ place in their big-man rotation. Huntley-Hatfield averaged 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this past season.

It’s one thing to have playing time to offer recruits from the transfer portal. But there also needs to be NIL money/opportunities for the player, too. State’s football team has done a good job in this respect. Now it’s time for donors to do the same for the basketball program. Hopefully, this run to the Final Four encourages the wealthy alumni to step up and do their part.

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