Warren leads Wolfpack over Pitt
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon kept trying to find somebody – sometimes two somebodies – to guard N.C. State star T.J. Warren.
Dixon eventually ran out of volunteers and options.
Warren never ran out of shots.
Hot from the start and scorching at the finish, Warren poured in a career-high 41 points to lift the Wolfpack to a 74-67 win over the Panthers on Monday night.
“T.J. was special,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
The ACC’s leading scorer made seven straight shots at one point and finished 16 of 22 from the field. His emphatic dunk in the final seconds sealed it to give the Wolfpack’s flagging NCAA tournament hopes a needed boost.
“It was a pretty cool night,” Warren said. “I was just moving without the basketball, finding open spots.”
And his teammates kept finding him.
N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) won for just the second time in its last six games, riding Warren for much of the second half. Warren’s 41 points were the most by an N.C. State player since Rodney Monroe scored 48 against Georgia Tech in 1991.
“We tried to double-team him,” Pitt center Talib Zanna said. “He just kept making shots.”
The Wolfpack came in having lost four of five, including brutal one-point losses to Syracuse and North Carolina. There would be no late collapse this time.
N.C. State beat the Panthers at their own game, dominating the glass and taking over the lane.
The Wolfpack outrebounded Pitt 35-23, including 13-2 on the offensive glass. It led to a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points, including a pair of clutch baskets in the final minutes as the Panthers turned away one last-gasp comeback after another by the Panthers.
The 23 rebounds by Pitt were its fewest in Dixon’s decade on the sideline.
“We have to outrebound people and we didn’t get it done today,” Dixon said.
Josh Newkirk led Pitt (22-8, 10-7) with a career-high 20 points but the Panthers had no answer for Warren.
Not that they didn’t try.
Pitt threw a series of players at Warren, from Patterson to defensive specialist Cam Wright to power forward Jamel Artis. The Panthers even mixed up the defense, running zone at some point while mixing in a little man-to-man and the occasional double team.
It hardly mattered, though Warren didn’t exactly do it alone.
Lennard Freeman added 10 points off the bench and provided a physical presence the Wolfpack used to bully Pitt around on what was supposed to be a celebratory Senior Night for Patterson and Zanna. Patterson finished with 17 points but made just 7 of 12 at the free throw line.
Even worse, the nearly unbeatable aura the Panthers have enjoyed at home since the Petersen Events Center opened in 2003 has disappeared.
Pitt is 6-2 on the road in the ACC and just 4-5 at home.
“We got what we deserved,” Dixon said.
Pitt led by as much as 13 in the first half but struggled to put away the Wolfpack.
The Panthers controlled play for long stretches in the first half but only led 36-31 at the break, with the Wolfpack doing their best work when Warren finally got some help. Pitt appeared on the verge of blowing out N.C. State only to get sloppy at the end of the half.
The Wolfpack used a late 8-0 surge to get back in the game, pushing the Panthers around in the lane with relative ease.
“Our guys had a mindset to go get it,” Gottfried said.
A runner by Warren gave N.C. State its first lead of the second half at 48-46 and then followed it up by drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Panthers could never quite catch up. Several times they trimmed the deficit to a single point and each time N.C. State answered. A 3-pointer just before the shot clock buzzer by Warren made it 69-65 Wolfpack and he added a 15-footer that bounced off the rim and in.
Pitt would get no closer, and when a late Pitt turnover freed Warren up for a fastbreak dunk, the only sound was the roar of a small batch of Wolfpack fans who whooped it up as Warren’s teammates celebrated.