NC State clinches NCAA tournament berth with upset of UNC

NC State Secures Spot in NCAA Tournament After Stunning Upset Victory Over UNC

In Washington, DJ Horne lit up the scoreboard with 29 points, and DJ Burns Jr. added 20 of his own, marking a milestone with his first-ever college 3-pointer. Their efforts propelled North Carolina State to a triumphant return to the NCAA tournament. They clinched victory over the fourth-ranked North Carolina with an 84-76 win in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final on Saturday night.

The duo, known as the two DJs, led 10th-seeded NC State on an extraordinary journey, culminating in a victory over the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels had been seen as contenders for the national championship throughout the season. Despite facing foul trouble and playing 32 minutes, Horne matched UNC’s RJ Davis, the ACC Player of the Year, who had a remarkable game with 30 points.

The crowd erupted in cheers for Horne, chanting his name, especially when he fouled out with just 1:11 remaining on the clock. Overwhelmed with emotion, Horne expressed his disbelief at the turn of events. Just a week prior, it seemed their season was nearing its end, but now they were on top of the world.

However, Horne’s season isn’t over yet. Coach Kevin Keatts had emphasized the necessity of winning the tournament for a shot at the NCAAs. His team, the Wolfpack, with a record of 22-14, secured their first ACC tournament victory since 1987. That year, under Jim Valvano, the tournament was held in Landover, Maryland, and they also faced and defeated the Tar Heels.

This win granted the Wolfpack an automatic entry into the NCAA tournament, ensuring the ACC would have at least four teams participating, alongside UNC, Duke, and Clemson. Teams like Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Wake Forest awaited their fate on Selection Sunday with bated breath.

For UNC, with a 27-7 record, their journey to the final, which included a decisive win over Florida State and a victory against Pitt led by Davis, likely secured them a top seed in March Madness. Despite this, they and their teammates, including Armando Bacot, experienced a slump, missing 12 consecutive shots in the late game.

The Wolfpack, overcoming a four-game losing streak, made history as the first team to win five games in the ACC tournament. They were the underdogs, yet they managed to defeat Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and finally UNC.

Horne, filled with confidence, had always believed in their potential, asking, “Why not us?” The team’s fatigue was evident, playing their fifth game in as many days, which included an overtime battle in the semifinals. Yet, they persevered, with Burns, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound fifth-year senior, showcasing his strength inside. He matched his career-high seven assists and scored a memorable 3-pointer, his first in 160 college games. Celebrating the moment, Burns and his teammates are now set to dance their way into the NCAA tournament.

This story received contributions from The Associated Press.