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NC State Caps Off Day of Upsets in Pittsburgh



NC State forward D.J. Burns
North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) March 21, 2024 David Hague/PSN

PITTSBURGH – Since PPG Paints Arena opened in 2010, the venue in Uptown Pittsburgh has hosted NCAA Tournament games now on five different occasions.

Day one of the 2024 rendition was riddled with upsets as No. 14 Oakland took down Blue Blood No. 3 Kentucky, while No. 11 Oregon beat No. 6 South Carolina.

Those upsets came as the only other stunners outside of a game in 2015 in the building’s history. It was a second-round matchup that saw No. 8 NC State pull off the big-time upset over No. 1 Villanova at then Consol Energy Center.

Nine years later and the Wolfpack were back on the hardwood inside the venue situated at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Place as an underdog. With that same mentality, the 11th-seeded Wolfpack (ACC) advanced to the Round of 32 after defeating No. 6 Texas Tech (Big 12), 80-67.

NC State put together a collective effort with four players reaching double figures, including Ben Middlebrooks, who dropped in a career-high 21 points on 6 of 8 shooting after averaging just 5.5 points per game this season.

The ACC Tournament Champions also saw their big man, DJ Bruns, play an integral role with 16 points as the Wolfpack shot 50.9 percent from the floor.

Mohamed Diarra also logged a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, along with a thunderous two-handed slam.

The final contest of day one in Pittsburgh opened up with Texas Tech’s Joe Toussaint – a transfer from West Virginia last year – connect on a triple to thrust the Red Raiders in front by four.

Their opposition, however, put to use its 3-point offense as DJ Horne buried consecutive triples to place the Wolfpack back in front. Horne added to the Wolfpack offense with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.

That wouldn’t be the end of the lead changes as there were seven within seven minutes of play after the midway point of the first half.

Toussaint continued to sink the ball in as the Red Raiders staked their claim for the lead before the Wolfpack closed on a 10-3 run. NC State led at the break 37-33.

Texas Tech brought the game within two points on a pair of occasions, but the Wolfpack, bottling up the energy in the building, began to pull away.

Horne once again played a major role as he scored on a mid-range jumper that was followed by a steal on the defensive end leading to a headman pass to Casey Morsell for the easy breakaway lay-in.

After Middlebrooks hit the bench midway through the second half after already securing a career-high in points, Burns returned to the court.

Burns’ return ushered in cheers from throughout the arena and he used that to his advantage. Backing down defenders, the 6-foot-9, 275-pound center then cashed in on a hook shot with the crowd jumping to their feet.

The Wolfpack stacked together a 9-0 run as the Red Raiders struggled to score, hitting 1 of just 8 field goals during the middle stages of the half.

With the crowd on NC State’s side, the Wolfpack closed out the final upset of the day in Pittsburgh, marking their first trip to the Round of 32 since 2015.

It also comes as the third 11-6 upset of the opening day with Oregon and South Carolina, along with Duquesne over BYU in Omaha, Nebraska

Toussaint led the Red Raiders with 16 points, while Pop Isaacs added 12 and Darrion Williams contributed 10.

NC State will take on No. 14 Oakland on Saturday at 7:10 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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