N.C. State upsets Marquette in the Sweet 16 to keep March Madness run

DJ Horne scored 19 points and North Carolina State kept its magical NCAA Tournament run alive, beating Marquette 67-58 on Friday night to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

Casey Morsell added 15 points and Mohamed Diarra had 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Wolfpack, who have eight consecutive victories since the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, which they had to win even to be a part of March Madness.

 

On the 50th anniversary of N.C. State’s first national championship in 1974 — when the Wolfpack beat the Golden Eagles for the title — it’s beginning to look a lot like the second one in 1983.

“It’s magical, but I’m going to say we knew this from day one,” said Horne, whose team lost seven of nine to finish the regular season. “We knew we were a good team. It was all a matter of just locking in and understanding our roles, and no better time to be doing that than now.”

N.C. State (25-14), the 11th seed in the South Region, will face top-seeded Houston or No. 4 seed Duke on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

The last time the Wolfpack went that far 41 years ago, they had to win the ACC Tournament before the late Jim Valvano sprinted around the court trying to find someone to hug after a still-talked-about upset of high-flying Houston for the title.

The lower-key Kevin Keatts is in charge of the latest unlikely crew, with a big personality between the lines in 6-foot-9, 275-pound forward DJ Burns Jr., whose spinning layup and five assists helped the Wolfpack build a 13-point halftime lead.

The No. 2 seed Golden Eagles (27-10) couldn’t overcome an unsightly shooting performance in their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2013. They went 4 of 31 (12.9%) from 3-point range and shot 33.3% overall.

“We talked about being very stingy defensively,” Keatts said. “Marquette’s a really good basketball team. They do a great job. I thought we were better defensively.”

Kam Jones scored 20 points and point guard Tyler Kolek had 17 points and 10 rebounds as a Big East team lost for the first time in eight games in this tournament.

Third-year coach Shaka Smart is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament in Texas with Marquette — including North Carolina’s first-round blowout two years ago — after failing to win a tournament game in six seasons leading the Longhorns.

N.C. State found the same balance that led to five players leading the team in scoring during the current winning streak. Horne did it for the third time.

Horne answered two brief Marquette runs with 3-pointers, blowing a kiss to the Golden Eagles fans behind their team’s bench after the first and gesturing toward his supporters near the N.C. State bench after the second.

Marquette was within eight when Jones missed an open 3-pointer with six minutes to go. The Golden Eagles couldn’t get closer than six after trailing by 16 early in the second half.

The finish of the first half said it all as the Golden Eagles finished with a season low in points.

After Oso Ighodaro missed a dunk, Marquette got the rebound, only for David Joplin to miss a 3 to drop to 0 of 5 from deep before the break.

Joplin was fouled on a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining in the first half, and missed all three free throws.

The third-seeded N.C. State women’s team earned its third trip to the women’s Elite Eight also on Friday with a 77-67 victory over second-seeded Stanford.

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