Powered by big man DJ Burns Jr., N.C. State muscles past Oakland in overtime to reach Sweet 16

PITTSBURGH (AP) — DJ Burns Jr. knows he has a choice most nights. The North Carolina State forward can pout about the constant pushing and shoving he receives in the post — the cost of doing business when you're 6-foot-9 and 275 pounds — or he can fight.

There was a time earlier in his career when, according to Burns, he would “get in my feelings” when the calls wouldn't go his way.

Turns out taking the fight to the other team is way more fun.

The versatile big man with the decidedly under-the-rim game scored 24 points, including a go-ahead putback that ignited a 9-0 run in overtime, and the 11th-seeded Wolfpack beat 14th-seeded Oakland 79-73 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.

Burns pounded his chest as he left the floor after two-plus hours of tussling in the lane and good-naturedly jawing with Oakland supporters, one of the reasons he nodded when coach Kevin Keatts likened his team's victory to a boxing match.

“The fans, they’re going to really come at you," Burns said. “Especially when they have a team like that with the capabilities that they have, you got to talk. You got to have some fun with it.”

N.C. State (24-14) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 by finally putting away 3-point specialist Jack Gohlke and the Golden Grizzlies (24-12) in the extra period.

The Wolfpack will face either second-seeded Marquette and 10th-seeded Colorado in Dallas on Friday in the South Region semifinals.

Two weeks ago, N.C. State was on the outside of the tournament bubble. Seven wins in 12 days later — including five in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament to earn an automatic NCAA berth — N.C. State is heading to Texas with a chance to send the program to its first Elite Eight since 1986.

“I think that’s what March is about,” Burns said. “Some teams got here by winning their conference just like us and that doesn’t mean they’re a bad team.”

The Wolfpack certainly aren't playing like one. While Burns is making a star turn, he's hardly doing it alone. All five N.C. State starters finished with at least 11 points, and Jayden Taylor came off the bench in overtime to hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Burns that gave the Wolfpack a 75-70 lead.

“I think one of the things if you look back at the seven games we won in a row, is I think that everyone has really stepped up in different ways,” Keatts said, later adding, “That’s kind of what makes us special.”

N.C. State needed to be special to turn back Oakland.

Two days after stunning third-seeded Kentucky, the commuter school 30 miles north of downtown Detroit just missed becoming the first 14 seed to reach the Sweet 16 since Chattanooga in 1997.

Trey Townsend, the Horizon League Player of the Year, had 30 points and 13 rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies. Gohlke, who made 10 3-pointers against Kentucky, poured in six more 3s and finished with 22 points.

“I think people now hopefully will know that we’re not in California and we’re from Michigan now,” Townsend said.

Townsend put Oakland in front for the first time with a three-point play with 2:49 to go in regulation, setting up a taut finish that had most of the fans inside a packed PPG Paints Arena pulling for the Golden Grizzlies.

That group included Oakland President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, who watched from the front row while holding a prop Cinderella-style glass slipper.

It didn’t quite fit.

Oakland had a chance at a last-second shot in regulation when it called timeout with 17 seconds to go. Kampe called a play designed to get Townsend in a one-on-one matchup. The Golden Grizzlies had trouble with N.C. State's pressure, turning it over with 1.3 seconds to go.

“I blame myself,” Kampe said. “We got the ball with 17 seconds to go and we didn’t get a shot. There’s only one person to blame for that. That’s me, and I've got to sit here and live with that now.”

N.C. State took advantage, moving in front for good on a Burns' putback, and the Wolfpack ended the brief but spectacular tournament run by Gohlke.

The graduate student who spent the previous five years at Division II Hillsdale College had the majority of fans rising to their feet every time he launched one from deep.

“The legend of Jack Gohlke is going to go on and Oakland is going to be associated with that,” Kampe said.

N.C. State breezed past sixth-seeded Texas Tech in the first round and looked comfortable playing the favorite, a rarity during its postseason run.

The Wolfpack will be underdogs again — by seed anyway — in their next game. That's fine with them. Few outside their locker room expected them to get this far.

Burns has a message for those trying to hop back on the bandwagon.

“I’m just saying welcome back,” he said. “They didn’t really believe in us. They probably still don’t but that doesn’t matter to us. We’re just going to stay together. If you’re supporting us, thank you. If not, that’s what it is.”

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