North Carolina State continues run, downs Oakland in OT

PITTSBURGH — After defeating March’s latest folks heroes, NC State’s DJ Burns Jr., a Paul Bunyan determine in his personal proper, stood within the locker room carrying a silver chain round his neck.

On the finish of the chain, a pendant of a glowing yellow sunshine peeking from behind a rain cloud brushed the pink “N.C. State” screen-printed throughout his chest. Burns purchased the chain and the gem-encrusted medallion from a retailer in Raleigh, North Carolina, this 12 months. It is a reminder, Burns stated earlier this week, to all the time keep optimistic within the face of adversity.

And it is a mantra that Burns repeated to himself usually all through his 24-point, 11-rebound efficiency within the 79-73 extra time win towards Oakland on Saturday night time that despatched NC State to its first Candy 16 since 2015. Afterward, Burns grinned and nodded on the postgame dais as his coach known as the sport a “boxing match.”

“It is a kind of video games the place I had the selection to get in my emotions about getting fouled or proceed to play arduous,” Burns stated. “I simply hit a degree the place I used to be like, I simply gotta ignore it as a result of it isn’t going away. So I simply wished to strive my finest to maintain going for my guys.”

The massive man, who transferred to NC State from Winthrop earlier than the 2022 season, banged within the publish all night time with Oakland’s Trey Townsend, the Horizon League’s Participant of the Yr, and Chris Conway, battling towards double and triple groups because the Golden Grizzlies tried to claw to a second upset victory. As a crew, NC State outscored Oakland within the paint 36-24.

And Burns, with a major dimension benefit at 6-foot-9, 275-pounds, fought via the contact for NC State’s first NCAA event 20-point double-double since 1991 — and simply the second of his season. He additionally added 4 assists, usually passing the ball out to a shooter freed up by the defensive crush round him within the publish.

Burns additionally turned the primary NC State participant to attain at the very least 20 factors and 10 rebounds with over 40 minutes performed in an NCAA event recreation since David Thompson and Tom Burleson within the NC State’s double-overtime 1974 nationwide semifinals victory over UCLA, in response to ESPN Stats & Info analysis.

“It is so robust to referee him, and he most likely will get fouled greater than anyone, and I am not saying these officers or some other officers,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts stated. “He is received no alternative. Very seldom do you see him get to the free throw line when you can also make a case that each different possession that he touches the basketball he will get fouled. And so we have talked in regards to the maturity of it. It is like, what are you going to do? I imply, you do not prefer it, you get a technical foul. Simply transfer on and simply play via contact, and I feel that is the place he is matured.”

Tied with the No. 14 seed halfway via the second half, Burns bullied his strategy to the rim to take a two-point lead — and he was fouled on the shot by Conway, organising his first journey to the free throw line. Because the official blew the whistle and signaled the foul, Burns stared down the digicam on the base of the basket as NC State followers roared round him and the Wolfpack cheerleaders to his proper exploded.

It was a second of reduction, validation and dominance all rolled into one — a microcosm of the whirlwind journey his crew has been on since coming again to beat Louisville within the first spherical of the ACC event to kick-start the Wolfpack’s postseason tear of seven wins in 12 days.

And after that seventh win Saturday night time, Burns was requested if he had a message for the individuals who doubted him and his crew. As he contemplated his response, his coach cautioned him with a smile and a phrase of recommendation: “Be good, Burns.”

“I am simply saying welcome again,” Burns stated. “They did not actually consider in us. They most likely nonetheless do not however that does not matter to us. We’re simply going to remain collectively. Should you’re supporting us, thanks. If not, that is what it’s.”