by Neil Morris
PNC ARENA/RALEIGH—A Pack full of plaudits accompanied N.C. State’s 84-66 win over the Florida State Seminoles Tuesday evening in Raleigh. Sharp-shooting Scott Wood’s trio of 3-point baskets gives him 302 for his college career, passing Tony Akins for ninth most in ACC history. C.J. Leslie’s 19 points and 10 rebounds is his fifth double-double over the last seven games and his eighth of the season.
But, this night belonged to a freshman whom Seminoles Head Coach Leonard Hamilton labeled “a man among boys.” Getting only his fifth start of the season, T.J. Warren amassed an eye-popping stat line, notching 31 points and 13 rebounds, new highs for the Durham native’s still-nascent college career. Warren’s exploits become even more impressive once you look closer at the numbers: 12-15 shooting from the field, including 2-2 from 3-point range, and 5-5 from the free throw line (where he’d converted only 52 percent on the season). And for good measure, he had one steal and no turnovers.
Warren’s 31 points ties the third most ever scored in a game by a N.C. State freshman, matching J.J. Hickson against William & Mary in 2007 and Scott Wood in 2010 against Florida State, an irony not lost on Hamilton during his postgame press conference.
“I’ve never seen a team with this many potent scorers,” Hamilton marveled. “I think bringing Warren into the lineup just gives them more of a potent system, because now you have five guys on the floor that are kind of ‘pick your poison.’”
The result of the game was rarely in doubt. N.C. State never trailed, grabbing a 10-point lead at halftime that never drifted below double-digits in the second half. Michael Snaer’s team-high 20 points kept Florida State within striking distance—the lead was “only” 10 with nearly seven minutes left to play. But 3-pointers by Warren and Wood pushed the margin to 16. Indeed, before being subbed out with a minute left in regulation, Warren scored 12 points over nearly 5:30 to seal the Seminoles’ fate.
As Warren exited the court, he was serenaded to chants of “T-J WAR-REN” from the Wolfpack partisans for a performance that will likely give him a third turn as ACC Rookie of the Week. For his part, Warren took the adulation in stride.
“I think it all started with defense and crashing the glass,” Warren said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me on the offensive end and everything fell in place.”
N.C. State outscored Florida State 15-3 in fast break points and a remarkable 29-6 in second-chance points. Indeed, the Wolfpack held a 45-21 advantage on the boards, including a difference of 21-6 in offensive rebounds.
“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 real sure our players got the memo.”
With five games left in the regular season, N.C. State (19-7, 8-5 ACC) travels to Chapel Hill this Saturday for an important clash with the rival Tar Heels. The Wolfpack, UNC and Virginia are vying to finish at least third or fourth in the conference and receive byes into the Friday quarterfinals in the upcoming ACC Tournament.