NC State extends March march, downing Texas Tech

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 22 Mar, 2024 at 06:00 AM

Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Middlebrooks scored a career-high 21 points, Mohamed Diarra added a career-best 17 points plus 12 rebounds and No. 11 seed North Carolina State continued its surprising March with an 80-67 takedown of No. 6 Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

DJ Horne tallied 16 points, six rebounds and five assists and D.J. Burns Jr. scored 16 for the Wolfpack (23-14), who only made it this far by winning five games in five days to capture the ACC tournament title after entering it as the 10th seed.

Now, they will play No. 14 seed Oakland on Saturday in the South Region with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.

"We got stronger in the second half. We started defending," NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. "... We completely played the game through our post. We really went inside out, and it worked out for us."

Diarra scored 12 of his points in the second half, when the Wolfpack shot 14 of 23 from the field (60.9 percent). NC State finished the game outshooting Texas Tech 50.9 percent to 38.7 percent.

Joe Toussaint led Texas Tech (23-11) with 16 points. Pop Isaacs scored 12, and Darrion Williams finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Middlebrooks and Burns helped NC State bully Texas Tech 42-20 in the paint.

"Their paint points were the difference," Red Raiders coach Grant McCasland said. "We wanted to double a few more times, and we had a double off the bounce. But also, I thought D.J.'s minutes obviously were significant in the post, but Middlebrooks was the one that really hurt us the most because he's been scoring, but he hasn't been scoring like this."

Neither side led by more than four until NC State forged a 10-0 run late in the first half. Casey Morsell's corner 3-pointer in transition and Middlebrooks' layup and foul shot gave the Wolfpack a 37-30 advantage.

However, Toussaint rebounded a teammate's miss to set up Williams for a buzzer-beater from the right corner, bringing Texas Tech within four at halftime.

The Red Raiders cut the margin to two points twice early in the second half before the Wolfpack broke away with a 9-0 surge.

Horne converted a three-point play and Diarra dunked on a fastbreak. Then Horne snatched a steal and fed Morsell in transition, before Burns' floater capped the spurt and gave NC State a 61-49 lead, its largest to that point.

Burns got another bucket in the post for a 65-51 Wolfpack edge with 6:38 left. The 275-pounder was coming off shooting 9-for-12 in the ACC championship game and 8-for-11 in the preceding semifinal.

The NC State crowd has grown accustomed to cheering in unison whenever Burns touches the ball.

"It's a great feeling when people are behind you," Burns said. "But you try not to get too high or too low. I think it's awesome, but that's not what makes us win."

Middlebrooks' finger roll made it 70-56 with about four minutes left, essentially putting the game away.

The Red Raiders missed 14 of 16 shots from the field late in the game before Kerwin Walton hit two of his three 3-pointers to make the final margin less lopsided.

--Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media