BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren have known each other since middle school, and in their first college basketball game, they looked like they had been teammates just as long. But N.C. States game against Penn State on Thursday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off will only be the second official game together for the freshmen friends.
The only other game we were on the same team was the McDonalds (All-American) Game, Lewis said, and that doesnt really count.
Lewis, a point guard from Statesville, and Warren, a forward from Durham, thrived off the bench in the Wolfpacks season opener, a 97-59 home win over Miami (Ohio) last Friday. Lewis had six points and six assists in 15 minutes and Warren had eight points and two assists in 24 minutes. Fellow freshman Rodney Purvis started at guard and tied senior Richard Howell for the team lead in scoring with 16 points.
If last seasons rotation is any indication, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried will rely on Lewis and Warren as his primary reserves, although Gottfried considers Warren his sixth starter.
Ive told both (Purvis and Warren), weve got six starters, Im just not allowed to start six, Gottfried said after the Miami game.
There were two stretches when all three freshmen got to play on the floor at the same time. Given all the hype for the trio in the offseason its the schools first class with three McDonalds All-Americans Lewis said that was a memorable moment.
It was fun to play with the three freshmen out there for the first time, Lewis said.
The freshmen added energy in the second half of the win over the RedHawks. Purvis scored 14 of his 16 points and made all three of his 3-pointers in the second half.
Hes Rodney, what else can you say about him? junior guard Lorenzo Brown said. Hes doing his thing. All three of them are big time.
The Wolfpack had the game in hand before Lewis scored the first point of his college career (a free throw at 13:01 in the second half), but the lead went from 21 points to 43 by the time Lewis checked out with 2 minutes left in the game.
Lewis had a stretch where he scored five straight points with two field goals in transition. He also fed Warren for a layup in transition with a sweet behind-the-back pass.
Lewis, who made a name for himself in high school and on the AAU circuit with his creative passing, said he was a bit worried about Gottfrieds reaction to the fancy passing, which the home crowd ate up.
I had to get it out of my system. Its the first game, why not? Lewis said.
Lewis had his best assist on a lead pass to Warren in transition for a dunk at 7:40 to stretch N.C. States lead to 74-41. Lewis threw a rainbow pass from one foul line to the other, over Warrens shoulder, hitting him in stride. When the ball left Lewis hands, it looked like he was going to pass to Purvis on the left wing, not to Warren.
They played excellent, Brown said. Hopefully, thats how its going to be every game.