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Purdue ends NC State's Cinderella run, advances to first title game since 1969

The Boilermakers took care of business in a defensive focused 63-50 victory over the Wolfpack in the Final Four

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The 2024 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four team arrival event on Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2024 in Phoenix.

All stories come to an end, and the same was true for NC State's Cinderella run, which was cut short in the Final Four by Purdue.

Two high-powered offenses were disrupted by a pair of defenses ready to stop anyone in their way. The David vs. Goliath story went Goliath's way this time as senior center Zach Edey and the Boilermakers beat the Wolfpack 63-50.

"It's everything," Purdue sophomore guard Fletcher Loyer said. "It's everything we've worked for, everything we thought about. A lot of late nights, can't even sleep because you're thinking about it."

Things were bad from the get-go for NC State. As per usual, Purdue took advantage of Edey's imposing presence to punish the Wolfpack in the paint and from long range.

Purdue's dynamic offense was aided by its advantage on the boards. The Boilermakers outrebounded the Wolfpack 21-12 in the half and even picked up eight offensive rebounds. Purdue's big men earned the team 12 second-chance points while tallying 16 points in the paint, 12 of which came from Edey.

However, the script flipped when NC State graduate forward DJ Burns Jr. checked out of the game. NC State had been trying to get their forceful forward to kickstart its offense, but he only scored four in the half. Burns Jr. was getting shut down close to the basket and couldn’t make his midrange shots when all else failed.

The Wolfpack needed its guards to step up. That they did by leading a 13-4 scoring run. NC State improved its ball movement and shot selection, giving the team a fighting chance going into the half down 35-29. A seemingly defeated NC State team roared back to life, as did their thousands of once-quiet fans packed into State Farm Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, the game was a tale of two very different halves. A previously electric NC State offense couldn't buy a bucket for most of the second half. The Wolfpack's shooting percentage dropped from a respectable 43.3% to an abysmal 17% from the floor in the second half.

"I thought our defense was really good in the second half," Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. "We didn't have any breakdowns. In my opinion, we had too many breakdowns in the first half defensively."

In the first half, graduate guard DJ Horne led NC State in scoring with 13 points by shooting 6-11 from the field. Horne still led the Wolfpack in scoring in the second half but he struggled immensely by shooting 2-10 from the floor. 

The same downward offensive trend was true for Purdue but to a far lesser extent. The Boilermakers found it much more difficult to feed the ball to Edey for easy looks. Yet, even Purdue’s lackluster half was enough to secure the 63-50 win.

The victory sends NC State packing and ends the team’s magical NCAA Tournament run. NC State head coach Kevin Keatts spoke on the heartbreaking loss.

"I don't know that I could be more prouder of a group of men that I've ever coached in my life," Keatts said.  "Adversity, you name it, situations, you name it, hard times, you name it. They found a way to win the ACC, they found a way to make it to the Final Four."

The victory means a chance at redemption for the Boilermakers. Purdue will have a chance at winning its first national championship in the team's first title game appearance since 1969.

"It was a really big deal, but obviously there's still another game," Edey said. "No one is celebrating right now, but we're going to keep grinding and focusing on these games."

Edited by Alfred Smith III and Caera Learmonth

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