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.