Wolfpack's bigs get job done in 11-point win over ECU
N.C. State kept tossing the ball toward the rim and 7-footer Jordan Vandenberg kept dunking it.
“We were going to keep doing it until they could stop it,” Vandenberg said.
East Carolina couldn’t.
Vandenberg scored 16 of his career-high 18 points in the second half — and converted on a series of alley-oop dunks — to help N.C. State beat the Pirates 90-79 on Saturday for the Wolfpack’s seventh straight win.
Former Riverside High School star T.J. Warren had a career-high 32 points on 14-of-23 shooting and Anthony “Cat” Barber finished with 16 points.
The Wolfpack (9-2) shot 58 percent — their second-best shooting performance of the season — while improving to 20-1 in the cross-state series.
“Getting out in transition, that’s all we want to play,” Warren said. “We wanted to tighten up the defense as the game was going on, but it was easy to get out in transition and get easy layups, finish around the rim.”
Akeem Richmond scored 23 points and Caleb White had 14 for East Carolina (10-3), which had one starter taller than 6-foot-7. The Pirates shot 47 percent and hit 10 3-pointers but fell to 0-57 in road games against ACC schools and had their four-game winning streak snapped.
A win would have given East Carolina the best start in school history.
“The difference in the game was just the size,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “We had no low-post presence in there at all. We had to rely on guards making shots and beating people off the dribble.”
The Pirates never led in the second half, but kept themselves within striking distance for much of the way and closed to 82-77 on Richmond’s 3 from the corner with 2½ minutes left.
LSU transfer Ralston Turner countered with a 3, Vandenberg followed with a left-handed hook shot and Barber hit a layup with 1:18 left to give the Wolfpack their largest lead, 89-77.
Turner finished with 11 points on three 3-pointers. Vandenberg — who was 8-for-8 in the second half — keyed two big runs that each put N.C. State up by double figures.
His alley-oop with just under 15 minutes left gave the Wolfpack a 61-51 lead, and Tyler Lewis found him for consecutive alley-oops about 9 minutes later during the burst that eventually made it 80-70.
“That helped with the momentum. It gets everybody excited, and it’s an easy play to run,” Vandenberg said. “It was just good for energy for the team.”
Freshman BeeJay Anya matched a season high by blocking five shots, and they all came in a 5-minute span.
Those rejections came during a 15-0 run that closed the first half and almost single-handedly kept the previously torrid Pirates scoreless for the final six minutes.
“He changed the game,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “He gave us a great lift.”
Warren surpassed the 31 points he scored against Florida State last season, has led or shared the team scoring lead in every game but one for N.C. State and reached the 22-point mark for the eighth time this season.
“That gives us a 20-point buffer against any team we’re playing,” Vandenberg said. “I haven’t seen a team slow him down yet.”
He had 25 in the first half, hitting 11 of 17 shots and beating the halftime buzzer for a layup that made it 45-38.
For the Pirates, that marked quite a reversal. They led 38-30 on the second of Paris Campbell’s back-to-back 3s with just over 6 minutes left.
East Carolina missed its final six attempts — and five of them were blocked by Anya.
Prince Williams scored 12 points and Campbell finished with 11 for the Pirates.