Vandenberg sparks NC State's 82-62 win over Florida Gulf Coast

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2013 

— It didn’t take long for N.C. State to turn Dunk City into Done City on Tuesday.

With a lift from senior forward Jordan Vandenberg, N.C. State rolled out to a 20-point lead in the first four minutes of the second half against Florida Gulf Coast and then cruised to a 82-62 win.

Sophomore forward T.J. Warren led the Wolfpack (3-2) with 30 points but it was the return of Vandenberg, who missed the first four games of the season with an ankle injury, who made the difference Tuesday.

“You can tell there’s a big difference when he’s in there,” Warren said of Vandenberg. “I’m glad he’s back.”

Vandenberg, who finished with seven points and 10 rebounds, gave State a presence in the paint it had been missing the first three weeks of the season. The fifth-year senior turned his left ankle in the first preseason game on Oct. 30.

He had been relegated to the bench but not against Florida Gulf Coast, which earned the nickname “Dunk City” last March with a run to the Sweet 16.

State’s bigs – Vandenberg, Warren and BeeJay Anya – not the Eagles, provided the highlight dunks. Freshman point guard Cat Barber, making his first start, hit Vandenberg with a line drive pass near the rim from 35 feet from the basket.

In one motion, Vandenberg caught the ball, spun and threw down a dunk with his left hand for a 50-30 lead at 16:33 in the second half.

“Cat threw it a little low, but I made it work,” Vandenberg said.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried was impressed with Vandenberg’s ability to run the floor, something he couldn’t do a year ago when he was 40 pounds heavier.

“He’s somewhat nimble now for a big player,” Gottfried said. “He can move. It helps him a lot. Hopefully we can get some more games like he played tonight because I thought tonight he was the difference in the game early on.”

Warren added the exclamation point with a breakaway jam at 13:48 to push the Pack’s margin to 57-32.

The rest of the game was a chance for the team to completely flush the bad mojo from last Wednesday’s home loss to N.C. Central out of its system.

Anya, the massive freshman forward, didn’t play in the first half but came off the bench in the second half and had three dunks in a two-minute span.

Pretty much everything that went wrong against NCCU disappeared in the fun of Tuesday’s rout. There were fewer fouls, fewer forced shots and more defensive pressure from the Wolfpack.

Vandenberg’s return also allowed Warren to move back out to the wing, where he’s clearly more comfortable. Warren has scored 13 points in each of N.C. State’s first two losses, compared with 27, 23 and 30 in the three wins.

“It was fun,” Vandenberg said. “It was good to see all of my teammates play really well, especially T.J.

“He’s the main reason I can do what I do because everyone is worried about him so they’re not worried about the 7-footer running down the floor.”

The reconfigured starting lineup with Barber (12 points, six assists) and Vandenberg didn’t take control of the game until the final 5 minutes of the first half.

The teams went back and forth until Warren scored six points in a 12-3 run to put the Pack up 35-20. A Warren jumper with 31 seconds left gave the Pack a 39-24 lead at the half.

The Eagles (4-2) got their only dunk with 2:26 left in the second half. Vandenberg and N.C. State had closed down Dunk City long before then.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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