March Madness: No. 11 NC State knocks off No. 4 Duke to continue win streak and head to the Final Four

The Wolfpack have won nine consecutive elimination games

NC State’s improbable win streak has gone all the way to the Final Four.

The No. 11 Wolfpack won their ninth consecutive elimination game to beat No. 4 Duke 76-64 in the Elite Eight on Sunday. The win means NC State is the sixth No. 11 seed to make the Final Four in men’s NCAA tournament history. No team seeded lower than No. 11 has ever made a Final Four.

NC State was ice cold during the first half but got hot midway through the second half. After cutting Duke’s lead to 33-29 with 15:38 to go, the Wolfpack went on to outscore the Blue Devils 27-11 over the next 10 minutes.

The Wolfpack’s two DJs led the way. Both DJ Horne and DJ Burns were phenomenal. At one point during the stretch they scored 10 consecutive points for NC State. Burns was 13 of 19 from the field and finished with a game-high 29 points. Horne had 20.

And as NC State got hot, Duke struggled to score. The Blue Devils made just five baskets over the first 15 minutes of the second half and the game was pretty much over when NC State led 56-44 and Duke star Kyle Filipowski picked up his fifth foul with 4:52 to go.

Duke went to a full-court press over the final three minutes in a last-ditch attempt to cut into NC State's lead and it backfired. The Wolfpack consistently broke the pressure and got easy baskets at the rim to keep the lead in double figures.

Nine wins to be the sixth No. 11 seed in the Final Four

By now, you probably know how NC State got to the tournament. The Wolfpack finished 10th in the ACC after losing four straight games to end the season. That losing streak meant NC State had to play on the first night of the ACC tournament and faced the never-been-done prospect of five games in five days to win the tournament and make the NCAA tournament.

The Wolfpack made ACC history with wins over Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia and North Carolina. They got lucky in the win over Virginia and beat Duke by five, but the other three wins were comfortable.

Getting through the ACC tournament was the only way NC State was going to make the NCAA tournament. It was easy to think the Wolfpack wouldn’t make it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Instead, NC State upset Texas Tech by 13 in the first round, beat Oakland by six in the second round and then easily beat a cold-shooting Marquette team in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.

Sunday's win puts NC State in the company of LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), VCU (2011), Loyola Chicago (2018) and UCLA (2021) as the lowest-seeded teams to make the Final Four. None of those five teams won the national title, or even played in the national title game. The way this NC State win streak is going, past history isn't too much of a guide in 2024.

It’s the fourth Final Four trip in school history for NC State and the school’s first since it won the national title in 1983 as a No. 6 seed. That fabled team led by Jim Valvano knocked off two No. 1 seeds and a No. 4 seed over its final three tournament games.

DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 31:  Kyle Filipowski #30 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a foul in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Filipowski was just 3 of 12 from the field and fouled out in Duke's loss to NC State. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Duke shoots 32%

NC State was just 9 of 34 from the field in the first half. The second half was much, much different. The Wolfpack were 19 of 26 from the field over the final 20 minutes as Burns was 9 of 11 himself in the second half.

Duke, meanwhile, continued to shoot miserably from the field. The Blue Devils were 8 of 26 in the first half and not much better in the second. Duke shot just 11 of 33 from the field in the second half and finished the game 5 of 20 from the 3-point line.

Jared McCain scored 32 points on Sunday and made all five of Duke’s 3-point shots. The rest of the team was 0 of 9. Filipowski was just 3 of 12 from the field, while Jeremy Roach was 5 of 13 and Tyrese Proctor was 0 of 9.

With three of Duke’s stars struggling, no one else stepped up. Duke got just five shot attempts from the other four players who got playing time.

It’s a bitter end for a Duke team that opened the season at No. 2 in the preseason Top 25. But the Blue Devils (27-8) failed to live up to those lofty expectations all season. Duke never got higher than No. 7 in the top 25 after dropping to No. 9 in November and was a No. 4 seed after ending the season with back-to-back losses to North Carolina and NC State.