T.J. Warren's career-high 32 points and the team's 55 points in the paint paced the Wolfpack (9-2) to a 90-79 victory at PNC Arena. 7-foot-1 center Jordan Vandenberg also netted a career-best 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
"We played awfully well offensively, I thought, but the difference in the game was just the size. We had no low-post presence in there at all and we had to rely on guards making shots and beating people off-the-dribble," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo.
That worked for the Pirates (10-2) early on. In fact, they had a commanding 38-30 with 6:13 remaining in the first half following senior Paris Roberts-Campbell's three-pointer. That would be their last points of the half and the Wolfpack capitalized with a 15-0 run.
N.C. State forward BeeJay Anya blocked five shots during the spurt and Warren capped it with a lay-up as the buzzer sounded. The Wolfpack took a 45-38 lead into the locker room, but the game had changed from that point on.
"We had control of it in the first half and then the last four minutes, I think we got rattled on the road. It was really one of our first road games," Roberts-Campbell said. "We haven't seen size like that at all this season … We were kind of hesitant driving to the rim after they got that flurry of blocks at the end of the first half."
|Paris Roberts-Campbell drives on T.J. Warren|
On N.C. State's next possession, 6-5 junior Ralston Turner drilled a back-breaking triple with 2:15 remaining for the last of his 11 points.
"The one he made in the corner late was against really good defense by us," Lebo described the play, "Antonio Robinson did a great job, but he rose up and made it. I give him credit, he made some key ones."
Freshman point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber finished the job with his quickness and ability to get to the rim. He supplied 16 points and dished out a game-high eight assists.
ECU had four players score into double-figures, including Richmond, and booked 17 assists to just 10 turnovers. However, its two post-players Michael Zangari and Brandan Stith mustered just 10 points and four rebounds combined.
Before N.C. State's run at the end of the first half, the Pirates were given whatever they liked offensively. Early, they reeled off an 8-0 spurt to jump in front 17-8. Sophomore Prince Williams' secured ECU's largest lead of the day, 30-21, a little bit later on a mid-range jumper.
But Anya's blocked shots reenergized the Wolfpack and their fans. 8 of the 15 points were by Warren, including a lay-up that put N.C. State in the lead – 40-38 – for the first time since the game was 3-2.
"They turned up the heat on us in the final six minutes," said Lebo. "That's how they play … You can't have a section in the game where you have a 15-0 run and expect to win on the road against a good team. That ending was not good."
ECU came within a point of tying N.C. State on four separate occasions in the second half, but could not break through and get back into the lead. Trailing 61-51, the always-resilient Pirates scored nine straight points, culminating on another Williams' jump-shot, to trim the deficit to 61-60.
Williams closed with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Similar to his final field goal, Turner buried another important 3 to snap the run and start another for his team – N.C. State pushed its advantage back to 69-61.
There were just 23 fouls whistled on Saturday afternoon and as a result, both teams only attempted a combined 19 free throws.
ECU will return to action after the holiday against Georgia State on Dec. 29. Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m. at Minges Coliseum.