Warren, No. 14 N.C. State edge Clemson

RALEIGH, N.C. — He didn’t start No. 14 North Carolina State’s
run to open the game, nor did he finish off Clemson late, but T.J.
Warren may have been the most important player on the floor for the
Wolfpack on Sunday night.

A 6-foot-7 freshman, Warren was coming
off a scoreless game in the loss at Maryland and had failed to score in
two of the Wolfpack’s first four ACC games. So it wasn’t a complete
surprise to see his initial entry into Sunday’s contest –- with 10:21
left before halftime — a little later than usual.

But once
Warren stepped onto the PNC Arena floor, it was almost immediately
apparent almost he was a different player than in the previous
point-less performances. He nailed a jumper while drawing a foul and
converted the free throw for a conventional three-point play with 7:27
left before halftime. He hit a 3-pointer a minute later, had a tip-in 45
seconds after that and scored on a layup for his 10th point with 4:30
left in the half.

Warren put 10 points on the board just like that.

The
explosiveness N.C. State has lacked coming off the bench arrived at a
time when the Wolfpack was in need in its 66-62 victory. With leading
scorers C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown netting just six points apiece and
Scott Wood converting only two field goals, Warren’s 21 points may have
been the difference between victory and defeat for the Wolfpack, who
improved to 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the ACC.

“He makes those
mid-range shots that are hard to make,” said Clemson coach Brad
Brownell. “Eight-foot banks; 12-footer on the baseline. He’s just an
opportunistic guy. He got an offensive rebound late when it was an
important basket. He’s really good.”

As noted, Warren’s
offensive array was quite impressive, and how he goes about it is, too.
Fundamentally sound, especially for a freshmen, Warren properly squares
to the basket when he must, uses the glass (as Brownell noted) and he
possesses the natural gift of terrific fingertips.

As impressive
as Clemson center Devin Booker was in totaling 27 points, which at one
time included 25 of the Tigers’ 45, Warren had quite a run of his own.

From
when Warren entered the game until he scored his final point, he had
delivered 21 of the Wolfpack’s 39 points. That’s actually a better
percentage than Booker had. But Booker’s play was more demonstrative,
complete with thunderous alley-oops and one-handed jams in traffic. But
Warren’s “old man game,” as one local scribe called it, is almost in
concert with his nature.  

It had been a while, however, since
Warren was this productive. He reached the 20-point mark in two of N.C.
State’s first three games and was at 16 or more in six of the Wolfpack’s
first nine contests, but hadn’t scored more than 13 points but once in
N.C. State’s previous eight games before Sunday night. He failed to
score Georgia Tech in addition to the Maryland game.

“I just
think sometimes when you’re a freshman you go through that, good games
and then you struggle and you’re up and down, that’s not uncommon,” N.C.
State coach Mark Gottfried said.

Unlike a lot of players, especially young ones, Gottfried doesn’t get early reads on Warren after he enters games.

“Nah,
Maryland was not typical for him, he went 0-for-6 and really they were
good shots, he just couldn’t make any of them,” Gottfried said. “Tonight
was a lot like a lot of his nights have been where he’s been really
efficient scoring the ball and he does it in a number of different
ways.”

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Gottfried
surely wants Warren to find a measure of consistency, but on nights when
so much doesn’t go as scripted, it’s nice to have a guy that can
provide off the bench.