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NC State beats No. 4 North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament and earn an automatic NCAA bid

WASHINGTON (AP) — With their pair of DJs spinning a winning tune, the North Carolina State Wolfpack are going dancing in the NCAA Tournament after capping a historic run by knocking off fourth-ranked North Carolina.

DJ Horne scored 29 points, DJ Burns Jr. had 20, including the first 3-pointer of his college career, and N.C. State won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final, beating the Tar Heels 84-76 on Saturday night.

The Wolfpack became just the second team to win any conference tournament as a double-digit seed, 10th out of 15 teams, and the first to win the ACC’s with five victories in as many days.

“Winning five games in five nights is a miracle,” emotional N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said. “We’ve got to get some rest because, guess what, we’re going to the NCAA tournament.”

Horne starred while playing 32 minutes through foul trouble, going shot for shot with UNC’s unanimous ACC player of the year RJ Davis, who was spectacular with 30 points.

As he encouraged cheers from the crowd, fans in red chanted, “DJ Horne! DJ Horne!” when he fouled out with 1:11 left.

“I can’t even put it into words right now,” Horne said. “Just a week ago, it was looking like our season was about to be over, and here we are now, man, on top of the world.”

Fans then chanted Burns’ name when he was named tournament MVP.

“We knew we were capable of it,” Burns said. “It just doesn’t feel real. It may eventually.”

After Keatts said repeatedly his team was one of many needing to win the conference tournament to make the NCAAs, his Wolfpack (22-14) won the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1987 under Jim Valvano, when it was played outside Washington in Landover, Maryland.

That one came in a similar fashion: against the top-seeded and regular-season champion Tar Heels, who had beaten the Wolfpack twice that season, just like this year.

The Wolfpack snatched an automatic NCAA bid, bursting someone’s bubble and giving the ACC at least a fourth team in the NCAA Tournament along with locks UNC, Duke and Clemson. Virginia, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest are among the teams who will be sweating out Selection Sunday.

“Like I said from the jump, man, why not us?” Horne said.

UNC (27-7) likely shored up a top seed for March Madness by reaching the final with a rout of Florida State, then getting a starring performance from Davis to beat Pitt in the semifinals. Davis, Armando Bacot and their teammates won the ACC regular-season title but went cold down the stretch on Saturday, missing 12 consecutive shots down the stretch.

“We didn’t play our best basketball,” Davis said. “Coach (Hubert) Davis always talks about response and how we’re going to respond when we get knocked down, so going into the March Madness, we’re going to have to prepare, come together as a group and fix the mistakes that we made tonight.”

The fatigue of playing a fifth game in as many days, including overtime in the semifinals against Virginia, was noticeable at times. But N.C. State muscled through it, with plenty of bulk inside from Burns, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound fifth-year senior.

In addition to backing down Bacot for several baskets and tying his career high with seven assists, his 3 with the shot clock running out in the first half was his first from beyond the arc in his 160th college game. He shimmied back down the court, flexed toward the crowd in the final minutes and his next action will be in the NCAA Tournament.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: Talk about Keatts losing his job will likely subside, and now the Wolfpack will try to pull off the NCAA Tournament win they couldn’t last year, when as an 11 seed they lost to Creighton. Keatts earned a two-year contract extension through 2028 by winning the ACC.

UNC: Despite the defeat, the Tar Heels are still one of the country’s best teams and won’t be an easy out for any opponent. This was their first loss since Feb. 13, and as Pitt coach Jeff Capel said, “They’re relentless, they’re old (and) they’re good.”

UP NEXT

UNC and N.C. State will both be playing in the NCAA Tournament starting next week.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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