Observations From the Game: Northwestern

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here are some quick thoughts and observations from NC State's 69-48 win over Northwestern.

This may have been NC State's best overall performance of the season, as the Wolfpack dominated Northwestern in winning handily, 69-48.

Warren Stays Hot
NC State hit 45.9% of their shots, but overall, they were effective much of the game against Northwestern's sagging man-to-man defense.

Leading the way was star small forward T.J. Warren, who scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. Warren knocked down shots with ease and did so within the framework of the offense.

He was particularly effective in the first half, as he hit 7-of-10 shots: a step-back baseline jumper, two putback layups, a driving layup in traffic, an isolation score off a spin-dribble at the top of the key, a layup against a zone defense, and a tough pull-up floater versus the zone.

Warren gives NC State something a lot of teams in college basketball don't have right now... a go-to, efficient scorer who can put up points versus a variety of defenses.

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins praised Warren after the game.

"I've seen a lot of growth," the former Duke assistant said of Warren. "First of all you notice physically, you can tell he's really worked on getting in great shape. He's a lot thinner, noticeably. His body looks great.

"I just admire the way he plays because he's a scorer that's... he's very unique because he's always moving. You watch him on film and he just has a knack for finding that open area and cutting and moving without the ball. He scores in a lot of ways. He can post. He can shoot it. He's a great cutter. He gets to the foul line. He'll be one of the leading scorers, if not the leading scorer, in the ACC this year."

"That's what he's always done," Collins added. "He's been a scorer by trade. Last year, it was hard - they had so much talent last year. It was going to be hard for him to get 15 shots in a game with Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie and Scott Wood and Richard Howell and Rodney Purvis. I think what he's done is he knows he's the leader now. He knows he's the guy and he's playing great."

Frontcourt Production
NC State has been a team that's often relied on perimeter production this season, but on Wednesday night the Pack received a huge lift from starting big men Lennard Freeman and Jordan Vandenberg.

Freeman, NC State's last signee in the 2013 recruiting class, recorded the first double-double of his young career, totaling 10 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes.

Vandenberg's presence may have been felt more on teh defensive end, where he recorded a career-high five blocks, but he also ended up with 12 points and three rebounds.

Mark Gottfried had to be thrilled to receive 22 points (11-14 FG), 13 rebounds, and six blocks from the duo.

"I think he (Vandenberg) helps in a lot of ways, because he takes the pressure off those guys (State's other big men)," said Gottfried. "He has protected the rim pretty well so far. He has altered shots and blocked a few. I think our guys are gaining confidence in him. I think we are a much different team when he plays well for us.

"I am excited for Lennard (Freeman). He is such a young guy that is kind of excited to play and he plays hard. He blocks a shot and he gets rebounds. He had a couple dunks and he plays with energy. He also can go out on the floor and guard that stretch-forward that you have to sometimes guard that can make a three. He can go out on the perimeter and move his feet and contain a guy."

Pack Defense
Northwestern came in averaging 71 points per game while hitting 45.1% of their shots and nearly 37% of their three-point attempts. NC State locked them up all game.

The Wolfpack held the Wildcats to a season-low 48 points on a poor 25% shooting from the field. They also struggled from three, hitting just 6-of-22 attempts. Northwestern had 11 turnovers and just six assists with zero fastbreak points.

"I really liked our defense tonight," said Gottfried. "What stood out to me was I thought they (young players) did a pretty good job paying attention to detail through practice the last couple of days.

"I thought coming into the game, just watching film, Chris (Collins) does a great job of getting those guys three point shots. When you watch them and are preparing for them, they run some offense pretty well and they find guys. He does a nice job with that. So I thought our guys did a nice job of taking those away. There was some carry-over from practice to the game."

3-Point Shooting
If there has been a problem for the Pack this season it's been shooting from deep and that continued on Wednesday with the Wolfpack hitting just 4-of-18 3-point attempts.

The lone bright spot was junior Ralston Turner, who hit 3-of-7 3-point attempts. The rest of the team combined to go 1-of-11.

Player of the Game
T.J. Warren would be the easy choice, but we're going to go with Lennard Freeman.

Th 6-foot-8, 245-pounder gave the Wolfpack an energy boost, and his ability to rebound on both ends is critical. What really stands out about Freeman is how rarely he makes mistakes for such a young player and how he's athletic enough to defend multiple positions. He did a great job of moving his feet and guarding perimeter players on switches throughout the course of the game.

Strong outing for the 17-year old freshman.

Stat of the Game
Five, the number of turnovers NC State had in the game.

The Wolfpack has done a terrific job of taking care of the basketball this season and it all starts with the play of point guards Cat Barber and Tyler Lewis. The duo combined to total 12 assists and just two turnovers.

Jordan Vandenberg:
"We're trying harder. We care more about stopping the other team than we do about scoring."

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