NC State and its DJs are headed to their first fourth-place finish since 1983 with a 76-64 win over Duke

DALLAS (AP) — Bruises Big man DJ Burns Jr He plays with so much joy, jumping on and off the floor and interacting with North Carolina fans that he often works like crazy with slick moves and soft-touch shots.

“I grew up in a happy environment,” Burns said. “I try to take that with me wherever I go.”

Now he can take that to the desert for the Wolfpack's first Final Four in four decades.

Burns is 6-foot-9 and 275 pounds He scored a season-high 29 points In 13 of the 19 shootings, DJ Horn had 20 No. 11 seed NC State beat Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke 76-64 in the South Region final on Sunday.

N.C. State returns to basketball's biggest stage for the first time since the late Jim Valvano was running around the court looking for someone to hug after winning the 1983 national title by defeating Houston and Phi Slamma Gamma.

“These guys are very special.” Seventh-year coach Kevin Kitts He said. “Nine elimination games or go home.”

These Wolfpack (26-14) head to Glendale, Ariz., with the most losses ever for a Final Four team, but on a winning streak that began after losing their last four regular-season games, and seven of nine. They had to win five games against former national champions in five days in the ACC Tournament, including a win over Duke in the quarterfinals, just to get into the 68-team NCAA Tournament field.

Now they'll be an All-American at 7-foot-4 Zach Eddy and Purdue In the first national semifinal game, before defending champion UConn faces Alabama.

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“I'll say like I've been saying all tournament. 'When I stop enjoying basketball, I'll stop playing,' said Burns, who was named the South Region Player of the Week. “There's been a complete shift in our commitment. No one is late for things. No one poses a problem in court. Everyone comes together.”

Fourth-seeded Duke (27-9), which knocked off top-seeded Houston in the Sweet 16 two nights ago, He missed his second Final Four in three seasons After leading by six at halftime and maintaining that margin 16 and a half minutes before the end of the first half.

But shortly after Kitts was called for a technical foul with 8 minutes left, his team was on pace to become the seventh double-digit seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Jared McCain made both free throws for a technical that Keatts earned after officials ruled a missed shot by Duke's Kyle Filipowski went over the backboard and one of his players went off the shot clock. Replays showed that although there probably should have been a foul since Burns collided with the arm of the 7-foot Filipowski, the Wolfpack forward was nowhere near the ball.

A minute later, Ben Middlebrooks had a steal that led to a quick 3-pointer by Michael O'Connell. There was a foul while the ball was in the air, so the Wolfpack got the 3-pointer, kept the ball and Burns made another great basket for a 53-42 lead.

O'Connell scored six points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

McCain led Duke with 32 points, as the freshman guard hit 8-of-20 shots and made all 11 of his free throws. Jeremy Roach scored 13 points Sophomore center Filipowski had 11 points And nine rebounds before it was fouled with 4:52 left and the Blue Devils were already down by eight.

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“Just give the state credit. “They're on the run right now,” Roach said. “That wasn't us today.”

Neither double-digit seed reached the national championship game, but Wolfpack fans chanted “Why not us, why not us?” Before their team cut down the nets in the Big D — about 1,200 miles down the road from Tobacco, NC State and Duke University's campuses are about a half-hour drive from each other.

During the game's first media timeout, they were even able to watch on the large video boards in the arena as the NC State women dribble the final 26 seconds of the game. Their regional final victory over Texas To also advance to the Final Four.

Burns, who had just four points in the regional semifinal against Marquette, hit short jumpers on the Wolfpack's first two shots of the game. But those were their only consecutive attempts before halftime as they shot 26.5% (9 of 34) and trailed 27-21.

They certainly turned that around by scoring 55 points in the second half, making 19 of 26 shots (73.1%). Burns, who scored eight points in the first nine minutes of the game before the second foul, led 9 of 11 after halftime.

Duke made just 19 field goals in the entire game, posting a season-worst 32.2% on 59 attempts. The Blue Devils became the sixth straight opponent to be held to less than 40% shooting by NC State.

“We didn't have any rhythm offensively,” Duke's second-year coach John Shear said. “They started scoring more, and our offense was probably the most disjointed game we've played all year.”

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No title this time

Duke had held its first three March Madness opponents to less than 60 points. The only other times the Blue Devils had a three-game series like that in the tournament were in 2010 and 2015 — the last two national championships. Scheer was a part of both, first as a player and then as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski.

The entire southern region

Burns is joined on the all-district team by Horne, Filipowski, McKean and Marquette's Tyler Kulek.

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

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