And one: Burns Jr.'s career night, disjointed offensive production stymie No. 4-seed Duke in the Elite Eight

Wolfpack center DJ Burns Jr., had a season-high 29 points against Duke Sunday night.
Wolfpack center DJ Burns Jr., had a season-high 29 points against Duke Sunday night.

No. 4-seed Duke exited the NCAA tournament Sunday after a 64-76 defeat to No. 11-seed N.C. State. The Blue Zone breaks down the contest with a Player of the Game and more:

One player: DJ Burns Jr.

Each March, a select few college basketball players emerge onto the scene in the NCAA tournament and flourish into superstardom, capturing the hearts of basketball diehards and casual fans alike across the country. This year, nobody fits that description better than DJ Burns Jr., the N.C. State center whose dazzling post moves, pinpoint passing and goofy persona have led the Wolfpack on a magical run of nine straight wins, from the opening round of the ACC tournament all the way to the Final Four. Two of those nine wins came against Duke, and Sunday’s Elite Eight contest was the 275-pounder’s most spectacular showpiece yet. Burns danced to the rim and consistently converted difficult finishes throughout the matchup, culminating in a season-high 29 points and a regional championship trophy as N.C. State took down Duke 76-64.

The Rock Hill, S.C., native set season-high marks in both shots made and shots attempted, executing on 13 of his 19 shots against the Blue Devils and making three of four attempts from the charity stripe. It was utter dominance from the opening tip to the final buzzer, highlighted by two and-one opportunities in the closing minutes for America’s new favorite big man as the Wolfpack closed in on a trip to Phoenix for their first appearance in a Final Four since 1983.

One word: Disjointed

For head coach Jon Scheyer and Duke, it just never really felt quite right Sunday evening. Despite freshman guard Jared McCain’s 32-point showing, the Blue Devils struggled to gain any traction on offense, often encountering long stretches without any made field goals. While the Blue Devils led by six at half, the advantage came as a result of solid defense and an overall sloppy first half where neither side made even a third of their attempts from the field. Duke had the chance to lead by more, and ultimately it faced the consequences of squandered opportunity as the Wolfpack took control in the second half, outscoring the Blue Devils by 18.

In what became Duke’s final game of the 2023-24 season, none of its players managed to consistently find open shots throughout the contest. Even McCain, who undeniably had the most successful offensive night of any Blue Devil, scored 11 of his 32 points in the final two minutes of the game when Duke’s deficit was at least ten. The most notable statline in the box score is likely that of guard Tyrese Proctor, as the sophomore missed all nine of his attempts from the field, five of which came from beyond the arc. By the time the final horn blared, the Blue Devils had converted just 32.2% of their shots — not nearly good enough to get the job done this deep into March.

One stat: 9-2 second-half points off of turnovers

Although the final score doesn’t completely show it, Sunday’s regional championship was a low-scoring affair for most of the contest. It was the type of game where both baskets feel as though they are placed on top of a hill, and every point is hard-fought and crucial. Because of this, being able to capitalize off the errors of the opponents was paramount, and N.C. State managed to execute better in this regard in the second period. While Duke turned the ball over just one more time than N.C. State in the half, it only managed two points off turnovers to the Wolfpack’s nine. Had the Blue Devils been able to convert some of these extra opportunities into scores, the matchup may have gone differently. Instead, the squad from Durham will have to wait until next season to get another crack at a sixth national title.


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