College Basketball Road Trip: Cold outside, but Warren's on fire
MAR 04, 2014 5:39a ET
On a blistering cold night in Pittsburgh with snow all over the mountainous campus, NC State’s T.J. Warren was burning up. The sophomore forward from Durham, NC scored a career-high 41 points in his team’s 74-67 victory in Pitt’s Petersen Events Center, where the home team said goodbye to seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, its two leading scorers this season.
Patterson had a productive night of his own, scoring a team-high 17 points for the Panthers, but it was Warren who stole the show in this one.
Warren was incredibly efficient offensively throughout the entire game, missing only six of his 22 shot attempts and one of his seven free throws, while hauling in five rebounds and dishing out four assists. He single-handedly brought the Wolfpack back from a 13-point deficit in the first half, with 26 of his 41 coming after the break as his team earned its first lead midway through the second and then held on to win in the end. Afterward, he credited his teammates for getting him the ball in good spots, a humble answer, but I’ll call it like I saw it: Warren absolutely took over and Pitt couldn’t do anything about it.
If you have followed NC State at all this season, you know Pitt isn’t the first team to struggle containing Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer at almost 24 points per game. He entered Monday night’s contest having eclipsed the 30-point mark in three of his last five outings and eight times this season. The 41-point night also set a Petersen Events Center record for the most points ever scored by an opposing player, and it surpassed Warren’s previous high of 36, set against North Carolina not even one week ago.
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried called Warren’s performance spectacular. “Obviously, TJ was special,” he said. “He made big shots for our team.”
Making big shots for his team is exactly what Warren does. Unfortunately, his team hasn’t done a whole lot to help him out in return. Even with Monday night’s stunner on the road over fifth-place Pitt, NC State will likely miss the NCAA Tournament, which isn’t going to do any favors for Warren in the ACC Player of the Year race. He is arguably the most deserving of the award, but with his team’s current 8-9 conference record, voters will lean toward UNC’s Marcus Paige, who just blocked a last-second shot to give the Tar Heels a 12th consecutive win in the ACC.
But with or without the conference’s top individual award, Warren should be a first-round pick in next summer’s NBA draft if he decides to forego his final two seasons in Raleigh. And if he does, the game tape from Monday night’s performance at Pitt will fill up his college highlight reel.
Now if only someone would fill up our gas tank, the Fox Sports College Basketball Road Trip (we need a shorter name) could move on to the next stop of the tour. It took what little fumes we had to get up the hills to the gym and now we have a late-night drive to Zanesville, Ohio before we attack Michigan at Illinois Tuesday night.
Talk to you then. Or maybe even before if I call you from the side of the road for a ride to the gas station.