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N.C. State keeps magical March Madness run alive with 67-58 win over Marquette

DALLAS (AP) — DJ Horne blew kisses to the crowd and blew off the notion of North Carolina State as a Cinderella.

As for their opportunity to create a replay of 1983, yeah, the Wolfpack are aware.

Horne scored 19 points and N.C. 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 in N.C. State’s eighth consecutive victory since the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, which the Wolfpack 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 nine years after that.

“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 No. 4 seed Duke in an all-ACC duel 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 Cougars won’t be the opponent in the South Region final because of the Blue Devils’ 54-51 victory. But there are still plenty of reasons to be flashing back to 1983.

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.

“We don’t have to talk about that history because we celebrate it the entire time,” Keatts said. “It’s been talked about since I’ve been here, and it’s going to be talked about as long as we ever are going to remember.”

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.

“Our mentality is even if we have a tough shooting night, find a way to win anyway,” coach Shaka Smart said. “And we weren’t quite good enough on the defensive end to get that done with the shooting night that we had.”

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.

Smart, in his third season at Marquette, is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament in Texas — including North Carolina’s first-round blowout two years ago — after failing to win a tournament game in six seasons leading the Longhorns.

“The worst part about losing today is that we don’t have practice tomorrow,” Smart said. “We don’t have another game to prepare for.”

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.

“People still don’t think we’re supposed to be here, that we’re going to go further,” said Burns, who had four points and seven assists. “We’re going to keep trying to crash the party.”

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.

“Just keeping faith in the guys and keep giving them confidence because I’m going to keep finding them, and they know that,” said Kolek, who was limited to three assists after leading the nation at nearly eight per game. “They know I got the confidence in them to keep shooting it.”

UP NEXT

After winning the 1983 title, the Wolfpack reached the Elite Eight again in 1985 and ’86. They lost to a No. 1 seed each time. St. John’s was a 69-60 winner in ’85, followed by Kansas with a 75-67 victory.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Sports Writer

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