Warren, Pack bury Florida State
T.J. Warren gave N.C. State the spark his coach wanted to see Tuesday night.
The freshman from Durham had season-highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds to help the Wolfpack beat Florida State 84-66, a rare easy victory for a team that has spent the past month fighting through down-to-the-wire finishes.
C.J. Leslie added 19 points for the Wolfpack (19-7, 8-5 ACC), who led the entire night to snap a three-game losing streak against the Seminoles. The win also snapped a four-game losing skid against Florida State (14-12, 6-7) on N.C. State’s homecourt in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack dominated the boards and got plenty of second-chance baskets to stay in control of this one, earning a third straight win overall heading into this weekend’s trip to rival North Carolina.
Warren, a 6-foot-8 forward, earned just his fifth start of the season over fellow rookie Rodney Purvis, who had started all but two games this year. Warren finished 12-for-15 from the field and hit two 3-pointers in 31 minutes.
Warren offered a jolt for a team that had played seven games decided by four or fewer points since a 3-0 league start, with the Wolfpack going 3-4 in those games.
“I felt like our team needed something different in there right now,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “I’ve told all three of those freshmen all year long: for our team to be great, all three of you need to play well. Tonight it just happened to be T.J.’s opportunity, and he was very good.”
Warren came in averaging about 11 points and shooting nearly 62 percent from the field with 16 games in double figures. He topped every one of those Tuesday, surpassing his previous highs of 22 points and eight rebounds while also tying for the third-best scoring total by an N.C. State freshman.
“My confidence, it’s always going to stay the same,” Warren said. “It’s something I can’t lose. I just have to go out there and play the game. I’ve been playing the game a long time. ... I just wanted to keep it up.”
Warren made it all look easy, whether he was knocking down open jumpers or scoring through contact in traffic. His three-point play with about 90 seconds left helped the Wolfpack blow the game open late and had the home fans chanting his name.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Warren — who had 20 second-half points — was “a man among boys out there tonight.”
“He’s a scorer and that’s what he does,” senior Scott Wood said. “He puts himself in the right position and the right situations to be successful and put the ball in the basket.”
While Warren turned in the best game of his young career, Leslie added 10 rebounds to help the Wolfpack take a 45-21 rebounding advantage. That included a dominating 21-6 performance on the offensive glass, which helped N.C. State amass 29 second-chance points compared to just six for Florida State.
Florida State has been outrebounded in 12 of 14 games, while the minus-24 differential was its worst of the season.
“Believe it or not, we did have a scouting report that said if we didn’t block out and put four guys in the lane that they would get a lot of offensive rebounds,” Hamilton said. “I’m not really sure our players got the memo.”
The Wolfpack led 40-30 at halftime, then gradually increased the margin through the first eight minutes to 58-41 on a pair of free throws from Leslie with 11:59 left. The Seminoles hung around but never got the lead to single digits, getting as close as 10 with about 7 minutes left before Warren and Wood knocked down 3s to push the lead back up to 16 with 5½ minutes left.
“The real key was the two guys I wasn’t guarding went off,” FSU senior Michael Snaer said. “The freshman, T.J. Warren, that’s something we can’t let happen.”
Leslie finished 6-for-12 from the field, while Wood added 13 points to help N.C. State stay in position for one of the league’s four first-day byes in next month’s ACC tournament in Greensboro.
Snaer scored 20 to lead the Seminoles, who have lost three of four since beating Georgia Tech on his last-second basket two weeks ago.
It was N.C. State’s first win against Florida State since beating the Seminoles in the quarterfinals of the 2010 ACC tournament.
NCSU 84, Florida St. 66
Percentages: FG .431, FT .800. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (Snaer 3-4, Miller 3-5, Thomas 0-2, Bookert 0-2, White 0-2, Whisnant II 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 5 (Turpin 3, Snaer 2). Turnovers: 14 (Thomas 4, Miller 3, Bookert 3, Snaer, Gilchrist, Ojo, Turpin). Steals: 6 (Miller 2, Thomas 2, Bookert, White).
Percentages: FG .458, FT .806. 3-Point Goals: 5-8, .625 (Wood 3-5, Warren 2-2, Brown 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 5 (Brown 2, Leslie, T. Lewis, Wood). Turnovers: 14 (Leslie 5, Brown 4, Wood 2, J. Lewis, Howell, Vandenberg). Steals: 9 (Howell 2, Wood 2, Leslie 2, Purvis, Warren, Brown).
A—17,011. Officials—Les Jones, Bryan Kersey, Michael Stephens.