N.C. State turned a great game from sophomore T.J. Warren into a big road win and bolstered its postseason hopes.
Warren's career-high 41 points carried the Wolfpack to a 74-67 win over Pittsburgh on Monday night to give it an elusive marquee win.
"That's a great team win for us," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said in the post-game press conference. "Obviously, T.J. was spectacular. He made big shots for our team and he kept making big shots late in the game."
With Warren's heroics, N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) picked up its first win over an ACC team ranked in the top 50 of the RPI in seven tries. The Pack lost by one point at Syracuse on Feb. 15 and by one at home to North Carolina last Wednesday, but would not be denied against the Panthers (22-8, 10-7 ACC), who went into the game ranked No. 45 in the RPI.
Warren's basket in the lane, over two defenders, with 1:28 left gave the Pack a 71-67 lead. He sealed the Pack's fourth ACC road win with a dunk with 21.5 seconds left. It's the eighth 30-point game of the season - and fourth in seven games - for Warren, who eclipsed his career scoring high for the second time in three games.
"It was a pretty cool night," Warren said.
The Panthers got a season-high 20 points from freshman guard Josh Newkirk, who made five 3-pointers, and led by as many as 13 in the first half. But the Panthers had no answer for Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring and field goal percentage. He made 16 of 22 shots and equaled his season best with three 3-pointers.
N.C. State also got the best of the Panthers on the boards. The Pack had a 35-23 rebounding edge and only turned the ball over six times.
In a 74-62 win in Raleigh on Jan. 4, the Panthers had a 35-29 rebounding edge and forced 16 Pack turnovers.
It was a different game for the second meeting between the ACC newcomer and the Wolfpack. N.C. State trailed 44-37 three minutes into the second half but the Pack went on a 14-2 run, capped by Warren's deep 3-pointer from the top of the key at 12:19.
The Pack, which closes the regular season at home with Boston College on Sunday, never gave up the lead again.
Freshman forward Lennard Freeman added 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench and freshman guard Cat Barber had five assists and was strong on defense against Pitt's best player, Lamar Patterson. Patterson carved up the Pack in Raleigh but was held to 17 points and six assists on Monday.
This game wasn't all roses for the Wolfpack. N.C. State started the game the way it ended Saturday's 85-70 loss to Miami -with serious problems on defense.
The Panthers made 12 of their first 16 shots (75 percent) and led 31-21 at the 6:40 mark after a 3-pointer from Newkirk, who hadn't scored more than 11 points in a game this season. Newkirk, a Raleigh product, buried three 3s in the first half and had 11 points, which matched his previous season-high.
Newkirk wasn't the only Pitt player hitting. You knew the Panthers had it going when forward Jamel Artis threw in a 3 at the end of a shot clock at the 8:53 mark. Pitt averages five 3-pointers a game but had six in the first half and 10 for the game. While the Panthers were scorching, the Wolfpack could only get Warren going. Warren scored 11 of the Pack's first 14 points and finished the half with 15 points.
The Panthers led 36-23 before the Pack closed the half with an 8-0 run. Freeman sparked the rally late in the half and Warren did the rest in the second half.
"He had the hot hand and they kept going to him," Gottfried said. "He was special, especially against a team that prides themselves on defending the way Pitt does."
N.C. STATE 74, PITTSBURGH 67