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Final Four goes down in Phoenix

(photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics) “Poster for the Final Four in Phoenix.”

Shaan Baid
Connector Editor

The stage is set for the Final Four of the Men’s NCAA tournament with UConn, Alabama, Purdue and NC State advancing. 

 The biggest headline is No. 11 NC State upsetting No. 4 Duke 76-64. NC State continues its Cinderella run despite finishing 9-11 in ACC games. With the win, NC State advances to its first Final Four appearance since 1983. 

After trailing 21-27 in the first half, NC State’s offense exploded, outscoring Duke 55-37. They were led by forward DJ Burns Jr. and guard DJ Horne as they put on an offensive clinic. The dynamic duo combined for 49 points, scoring over half their team’s points. 

 Burns led the team with 29 points on 13/19 field goal shooting, 20 of those points coming in the second half. The Blue Devils defense had no answers for Burns as he used his massive 275-pound frame to penetrate the paint. Horne chipped in with 20 points to complement the offense. 

 On the other side, No. 1 seeds UConn and Purdue met expectations by knocking off their opponents. 

 UConn demolished No. 3 seed Illinois 77-52. After being tied 23-23 in the first half, UConn went on a jaw-dropping 30-0 to close out the half and open the second half, effectively putting Illinois away. 

 UConn struggled to score for much of the first half but maintained a 28-23 lead. They outscored Illinois 49-29 in the second half. 

The Huskies were led by center Donovan Clingan, who recorded 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. 

UConn makes its second consecutive Final Four appearance looking to defend its national title. 

 Purdue defeated No. 2 Tennessee in a close contest, winning 72-66. The 2019 Sweet 16 rematch that saw Purdue win 99-94 met the same intensity. With the win, the Boilermakers made their first Final Four appearance since 1980. 

The game was a back-and-forth matchup between the top two seeds. Purdue barely edged out Tennessee 36-34 in the first half before prevailing in the second half, winning 36-32. 

However, Purdue blew a 54-46 lead in the second half, with the Volunteers tying it up at 58-58 with less than six minutes remaining. 

Despite the comeback, Purdue was able to hold on and secure the win. The Boilermakers were led by center Zach Edey, who recorded a monster game, scoring 40 points and 16 rebounds. He also came up with the game-sealing block on Volunteers guard Dalton Knect. 

 Edey tied former Navy star David Robinson’s record by recording a fifth-straight performance of 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game. The 7-foot-4 star also became the sixth player in NCAA Tournament history, and the first since Loyola-Maymount’s Bo Kimble in 1990, to score at least 40 points and 15 rebounds in a game. 

 Despite the loss, Knect had a strong performance, scoring 37 points in the losing effort for the Volunteers. 

 This has been a bounce-back year for Purdue, following last year’s humiliating loss to No. 16 FDU in the first round. Purdue will face NC State in the Final Four on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. 

 No. 4 Alabama defeated No. 6 Clemson 89-82, marking their first Final Four appearance in program history. 

This was another close contest that saw Alabama take control of the game by going on a 22-6 run to close the first half after trailing by 13 points. They were able to close out, winning the second half 54-50. 

The Crimson Tide were led by guard Mark Sears, who scored 23 points to help the program reach the Final Four. 

 Alabama will play UConn in the Final Four on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. 

 Looking ahead, the Final Four offers two exciting matchups between NC State and Purdue and Alabama and UConn. 


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