Vandenberg, Warren lead NC State to 69-48 win over Northwestern

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 4, 2013 

— N.C. State played its third straight game with senior forward Jordan Vandenberg on Wednesday.

N.C. State won its third straight game, 69-48 over Northwestern, with Vandenberg in the lineup.

This is not a coincidence, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said.

“We’re seeing now we’re a lot different with Jordan,” Gottfried said.

Vandenberg missed the first four games of the season with an ankle injury. The Wolfpack split those games, losing at Cincinnati and at home to N.C. Central.

Vandenberg scored 12 points and blocked five shots against the Wildcats for the Wolfpack’s first win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge since 2006.

The addition of the fifth-year senior to the lineup has made the Wolfpack better than the sum of its parts.

“I think he helps in a lot of ways,” Gottfried said. “He takes the pressure off the guys.”

Sophomore forward T.J. Warren, who scored 22 points against Northwestern, has been able to move back to the wing with Vandenberg in the lineup and he has averaged 27.3 points the past three games.

Freshman bigs Lennard Freeman (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyle Washington have less responsibility, especially on defense, with Vandenberg around to protect the rim.

Vandenberg gets more of a charge out of Warren’s point totals, or shooting resurgence by junior guard Ralston Turner (13 points) than his own contributions.

“We played as a good, solid unit, which was fun,” Vandenberg said.

Not that Vandenberg, a career reserve, isn’t happy about his increased role in the program. Since his return from the injury, Vandenberg has averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. Compare those to his career numbers: 1.4 points per game, 1.8 rebounds in 8.5 minutes.

“It’s so much more fun than watching from the sideline, I can attest to that,” Vandenberg said. “I did that for a couple of years.”

Warren scored 16 points in the first half as the Wolfpack took control early and didn’t look back once first-year Northwestern coach Chris Collins was called for a technical foul at the 17:53 mark of the second half.

Warren made both of the free throws and Vandenberg dropped in a hook shot to make it a four-point possession and give the Pack a 39-22 lead.

As expected, the Wildcats (4-5) went to a zone early and tried to beat the Wolfpack by trading 3-pointers for 2s.

Guard Drew Crawford (17 points) made two of the Wildcats’ first three 3-pointers but they finished 6 of 22 from behind the arc and shot just 25 percent (13 of 52) for the game.

N.C. State relied on guards Cat Barber (five assists) and Tyler Lewis (seven assists) to slash through the zone and feed Warren and the bigs. Turner got going in the second half with all three of his 3-pointers.

The Wolfpack had worked in practice against the zone since last Saturday’s 75-56 win over Eastern Kentucky. The extra work showed against the Wildcats.

“We’re getting better,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got to continue to get better at it.”

Gottfried was talking about his team’s zone offense but he could say the same about his team. The seeds of improvement are there since the N.C. Central loss.

“We’re beginning to develop some chemistry and we’re beginning to develop some depth,” Gottfried said.

And it has all been jumpstarted by the return of Vandenberg.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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