Sunday, April 21, 2024

NC State Wolfpack Shocks Duke Blue Devils in Stunning ACC Tournament Upset

HomeSports NewsNC State Wolfpack Shocks Duke Blue Devils in Stunning ACC Tournament Upset

In an electrifying night at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., the NC State Wolfpack pulled off a massive upset, defeating the #11 ranked Duke Blue Devils 74-69 in the quarterfinals of the 2024 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament. The heroic win marks an unprecedented milestone, as NC State becomes the first double-digit seed in tournament history to advance to the semifinal round after winning three consecutive games.

The Cardiac Pack Keeps Dancing Entering the tournament as the #10 seed after a disappointing end to the regular season, few expected the Wolfpack to make much noise. However, Kevin Keatts’ resilient squad had other plans, winning three straight games in dramatic fashion to keep their season alive.

On Tuesday, they edged out Louisville in the opening round. The very next day, they took down Syracuse in another nail-biter. But their biggest challenge loomed Thursday against their fierce in-state rival Duke, who had comfortably beaten them 79-64 just 10 days prior in Raleigh.

A Battle for Tobacco Road Supremacy From the opening tip, it was clear this quarterfinal matchup would be a dogfight. Both teams came out firing, trading blows and dramatic momentum swings throughout an intense 40 minutes of action.

The Wolfpack seized an early 35-32 halftime lead thanks to sizzling 3-point shooting, knocking down 5 of their 11 attempts from downtown in the opening period. They picked up right where they left off after the break, opening the second half on a blistering 6-0 run to extend their lead to 41-32.

Duke’s Star Freshman Kyle Filipowski tried valiantly to will his team back, pouring in a game-high 28 points before eventually fouling out. His teammate Mark Mitchell chipped in 18 points as well in the losing effort.

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But on this night, the Wolfpack’s balanced scoring attack and tenacious defense proved too much for the talented but shorthanded Blue Devils to overcome.

Unsung Heroes Emerge for NC State While Filipowski and Mitchell shouldered the scoring load for Duke, NC State had contributons from up and down the lineup. DJ Horne came off the bench to lead the way with 18 points for the Wolfpack.

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However, the true x-factors were graduate transfer Mohamed Diarra and veteran point guard Michael O’Connell. The lengthy, athletic Diarra dominated the interior with a monstrous double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds, while adding 4 blocks and 3 steals on the defensive end.

O’Connell was the steady hand running the show, dishing out 4 assists while chipping in 12 points, including a pair of big 3-pointers. His poise and court vision helped NC State maintain control during Duke’s second half push.

“He is able to get us in our offense and really control the pace of the game like I haven’t seen a lot of guards do,” teammate Ben Middlebrooks raved about O’Connell. “With his knowledge of the game, his IQ, the passes he makes — I love playing with him.”

Casey Morsell (11 points) and Terquavion Smith (9 points) also made key contributions for the balanced Wolfpack attack.

Adversity Fuels NC State’s Underdog Run What makes this improbable run even more impressive is the adversity NC State has faced throughout the season. Written off after a 4-game losing streak to end the regular season, the Wolfpack have embraced an “us against the world” mentality.

“We’re the only ones who chose us,” Diarra said. “Nobody chose us when we got in on Tuesday. Nobody trusted we were going to beat (Louisville). Nobody thought we were going to beat Syracuse. Nobody thought we were going to beat Duke. We’re a great team, and we’re going to be back tomorrow.”

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That self-belief and determination has fueled the Wolfpack’s magical run in D.C. Now they have a chance to keep dancing, with a spot in the ACC Championship game on the line Friday night against either Virginia or Boston College.

No matter what happens next, this resilient NC State team has already etched its name into ACC Tournament lore with their unprecedented three wins as a double-digit seed.

Injury-Plagued Duke Awaits NCAA Tournament Seeding As for Duke, the loss marks a disappointing finish to their ACC campaign after being a frontrunner for the conference crown for much of the season. The Blue Devils now head home to Durham to await their NCAA Tournament seeding and first round opponent, which will be unveiled on Sunday’s Selection Show.

Duke’s already shorthanded rotation was further depleted by the absence of freshman guard Caleb Foster, who missed his 5th straight game due to a right foot injury suffered in late February. His outside shooting and backcourt depth were sorely missed against the hot-shooting Wolfpack.

Still, led by Filipowski and an impressive ensemble of talented veterans and young prospects, Duke remains a formidable team that should be a tough out in the Big Dance. They will have to quickly regroup from this disappointment toNC State and refocus their efforts on making a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Lasting Legacy for Wolfpack Seniors For NC State’s core of savvy upperclassmen like Diarra, O’Connell, Morsell and Horne, leading this epic underdog charge cements their place in program lore.

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After persevering through the inevitable ups and downs of a college career, to go on this kind of soul-stirring ride in their final go-around is the stuff dreams are made of. No matter how far they advance from here, these Wolfpack warriors have already forged a lasting bond and authored an unforgettable chapter in NC State basketball history.

In the aftermath of their monumental upset over Duke, the Wolfpack reveled in the moment, but you could see the steely determination in their eyes. This was just another milestone to celebrate briefly before returning their sights to the bigger goal – winning an ACC Championship.

When reflecting on NC State’s miraculous run, perhaps O’Connell said it best:

“We just want to keep our season alive, man. We know what this means for us as far as winning this and what it can do for us. So that’s our ultimate goal.”

The Cardiac Pack has firmly believed in themselves when few others did. Two more wins, and they can etch their names among the ACC’s pantheon of legends by capturing the conference title.

First thing’s first – they’ll need to summon that same fearless, underdog spirit one more time on Friday night with a NCAA Tournament berth on the line. But if we’ve learned one thing about this crew, it’s to never underestimate their resolve when their season is at stake.

After slaying their biggest giant in Duke, is an ACC Championship out of the question? The way the Wolfpack are playing, anything seems possible in their fairytale journey.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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