NC State seals spot in Sweet 16, outlasts Oakland

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PITTSBURGH — DJ Burns Jr. scored 24 points, including a go-ahead putback that ignited a 9-0 run in overtime, and 11th-seeded North Carolina State beat 14th-seeded Oakland 79-73 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.

Powered by their versatile 6-foot-9, 275-pound forward, the Wolfpack (24-14) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 by finally pulling away from 3-point specialist Jack Gohlke and the Golden Grizzlies (24-12) in the extra period.

NC State will face either second-seeded Marquette and 10th-seeded Colorado in Dallas on Friday in the South Region semifinals.

“It felt like a boxing match. Our guys were tremendous,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “It was a back-and-forth game. We bent a little bit, but we never broke. We made big plays when we had to have big plays.”

Michael O’Connell had 12 points for the Wolfpack. DJ Horne and Casey Morsell added 11 apiece. Jayden Taylor came off the bench in overtime to hit a 3-pointer that put NC State ahead by five.

“I thought one of the biggest things for us was our character really shined through when we needed it,” Keatts said. “We stepped up in many ways. We had to get big stops. We had to get big baskets. At times things weren’t going our way. And it just shows you the growth of, obviously, this team and how they’re locked in and they’re focused, and their love for one another and how they play for one another, it’s been very impressive.”

Burns, often a target of Oakland’s fouling strategy, was 6-of-7 from the free throw line in the win.

“It’s one of those games where I had the choice to get in my feelings about getting fouled or continue to play hard,” Burns said. “I just hit a point where I was like, I’ve just got to ignore it, because it’s not going away. So I just wanted to try my best to keep going for my guys.”

Oakland, which ousted third-seeded Kentucky on Thursday, just missed becoming the first 14 seed to reach the Sweet 16 since Chattanooga in 1997.

Trey Townsend, the Horizon League Player of the Year, had 30 points and 13 rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies. Gohlke, who made 10 3-pointers against Kentucky, poured in six more 3s and finished with 22 points.

“I hope what they saw was what I talked about in my opening statement. I think we’re good for college basketball. I think we really were,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said after the loss, when asked about what the nation’s take should be on his team after a 1-1 run this week. “I think there’s 360 some Division I coaches. That’s all the jobs there are in the country, and I would say a lot of those guys are envious, not of Oakland or not of what we do and not of me, but of our team.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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