Oklahoma St.-NC State Preview
North Carolina State freshman T.J. Warren has been as good as advertised, and he hasn't even cracked the starting lineup.
He'll look to help the sixth-ranked Wolfpack capture the championship of the Puerto Rico Tipoff as they face Oklahoma State on Sunday night.
The 6-foot-8 Warren, a McDonald's All-American along with fellow freshmen teammates Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis, is averaging a team-best 17.0 points and hitting 70.0 percent of his field goal attempts as N.C. State (3-0) has won by an average of 24.3 points.
He made 8 of 11 from the field in Friday's 94-76 win over Massachusetts, following up a 22-point effort in an opening-round victory Thursday over Penn State in which he went 3 of 4 from 3-point range and 9 of 12 overall.
"Our team is developing, learning and getting a little bit better with each day and (Friday) was a good step," said coach Mark Gottfried, whose team went 8 of 18 from long range. "Scott is smart enough to figure out what he needed to do to get good shots and he hit some 3s. T.J. was good for us off the bench.
"We had a lot of guys playing well."
Warren is playing 28.3 minutes per game, but he's yet to make his first collegiate start. It doesn't seem to bother him any, though, waiting his turn behind frontcourt starters Wood, Howell and junior C.J. Leslie.
"Everybody was making shots," said Warren, who helped contribute to the team's 56.5 percent shooting Friday. "I'm glad the older guys finally got into it and were making shots. I'm happy for them."
He'll look to help the Wolfpack - shooting 56.1 percent overall - open 4-0 for the first time since 2009 by knocking off Oklahoma State, which routed Tennessee 62-45 on Friday to reach the title game.
The Cowboys (3-0) didn't look impressive in their 73-65 win over UC Davis on Nov. 9 nor their 69-65 overtime victory against Akron in the first round of this tournament Thursday.
Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash, though, each scored 17 points Friday to help Oklahoma State remain unbeaten.
"We were able to go to a zone that enabled us to force them to take threes," said coach Travis Ford, whose team held the Volunteers to 5 of 23 from 3-point range. "It was our goal to have our four and five guys stay in the paint and force them to the perimeter to take three point shots."
The Cowboys have had to rely on their defense to start the season due to their struggling offense. They're holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting and 58.3 points per game to offset shooting just 39.7 percent from the field.
"When you play defense and rebound the way we did, you give yourself a chance to win," Ford said. "We hadn't rebounded the ball that well this season until (Friday). We got guys the ball where they needed it to score and that was big in getting the win."
Oklahoma State did shoot a season-best 41.9 percent in Friday's victory.
The only meeting between the teams came in the second round of the 1991 NCAA tournament, when third-seeded Oklahoma State beat No. 6 seed N.C. State 73-64.