3 wins in 3 days for NC State

Wolfpack knocks off Duke to keep ACC roll alive

North Carolina State guard DJ Horne (0) celebrating at the end of NCAA college basketball game against Duke in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Washington. North Carolina State won 74-69. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON–Kevin Keatts went there.

Meeting with the media after tenth-seeded NC State’s upset of two seed Duke, Keatts said, “Once again, I know you guys love this, if you’re a part of Wolfpack Nation. We survive and advance.”

The miracle Pack has now won three games in three days, becoming the first double-digit seed since 2010 to make the ACC Tournament semifinals and the first ever to get there after starting its tournament run on Tuesday’s play-in round.

State’s run may not bring back echoes of the 1983 Cardiac Pack which upset its way to the NCAA title—yet—but State’s run has been impressive, especially considering their late season slump, when the Pack lost seven of nine and the last four games of the regular  season.

“We said when we got to the tournament, we can play and we can beat anybody in this league,” Keatts said. “The unfortunate thing about it is that everybody else can do the same thing. So I think we’re locked in.”

The Pack was clearly locked in against the Blue Devils. State outhustled Duke to loose ball and on the boards, outscoring Duke 18-8 on second-chance points. State’s defense also kept Duke in check. The Blue Devils missed their first six shots and two free throws, turning it over three times before hitting a shot from the field. They opened the second half the same way, missing their first five shots, while State pushed a three-point halftime lead to nine.

“Yeah, it’s happened three games in a row,” said Duke coach Jon Scheyer, who said his Blue Devils got “hit in the mouth” in their regular season finale against UNC. “That’s a concern. That’s a big concern. Even the start of the second half was the same way. So as a coach, I’ll have to figure out how to get that message across better or differently.”

The Wolfpack were led by DJ Horne, who scored 18 points, and Mohamed Diarra, who had 15 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Duke center Kyle Filipowski (30) in the final minute of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Duke was led by Kyle Filipowski, who had 28 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman guard Jared McCain struggled after colliding with teammate Jaylen Blakes during warmups and suffering a cut. He played with a large bandage over his eye and had just eight points, missing all three of his attempts from three.

“Jared wasn’t himself, no doubt,” Scheyer said. “He didn’t have the same pop like he normally does.”

That was true of several Blue Devils not wearing bandages as well.

“I think for us, though, it’s about the competitive fire you need to have in the postseason,” Scheyer said. “But we didn’t have that collectively overall.”

It was more glaring on a night when the Blue Devils’ opponents clearly did.

“NC State is playing the best basketball they’ve played probably, and you give them credit,” Scheyer said. “They’re talented. When you’re playing in the postseason, teams don’t want to go away. You have to make them go away.”

Three days in, no one has been able to do so yet. Much like 41 years ago.