Second Half T.J.
Teams need their star player to make plays late in games and few can argue that T.J. Warren isn't doing that for NC State.
The talented sophomore has been a dominant player in the second half of games recently, and that continued against Long Beach State. Warren had just six points in the first 20 minutes but exploded for 17 on 7-of-11 shooting in the second half and added four rebounds.
Warren is now averaging 8.4 points per game in the first half of games and 14.3 in the second half of the Pack's eight matchups. He's shooting a blistering 58.2% in the second half of those games.
Free Throw Shooting
NC State has had its struggles from the line this season, but that wasn't the case on Saturday.
The Wolfpack hit 13-of-15 free throws (86.7%), and State entered knocking down just 63.2% per game. However, they've been hot recently, as the previous season-high came earlier in the week against Northwestern (9-of-11 (81.8%)).
A big reason for State's recent improvement at the line has been the shooting of Warren. He has knocked down 22 of his last 23 free throw attempts after starting the season 5-of-11.
Cat Barber continues to progress at the point guard position, in terms of decision making, defense, and facilitating.
He played 35 minutes, totaling 19 points (7-of-15 FG, 2-5 3FG), four assists, three rebounds, and two turnovers. Since being inserted into the starting lineup he's averaging 12.5 points, five assists, and three rebounds per game.
Barber hasn't been a steal machine, but his on-ball defense has played a major role in limiting the opposing team's offense. Mark Gottfried praised his defense on talented Long Beach State point guard Mike Caffey.
"They cut it to two and Cat had some great plays during the stretch, kind of ignited a run for us," said Gottfried. "I think what kept Cat in the game more than anything was his defense on Caffey... in the halfcourt sets I thought Cat did a great job of defending him."
Long Beach State remained in the game, particularly early on, due to their ability to score in the paint on a variety of post touches.
Doing most of the damage for LBSU was big man Dan Jennings, who scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds while going right at Wolpack center Jordan Vandenberg.
"[Jennings] is a good player. He signed with West Virginia out of high school. He's a talented guy."
Fellow big man David Samuels also was effective, scoring 15 on 5-of-11 shooting from the field.
Long Beach State scored 36 of their 66 points in the paint.
Free Throw Shooting Defense
No clue what it is, but opposing teams have lit up NC State from the free throw line this season, and that didn't change on Saturday.
Opponents came in shooting an astounding 81.3% from the line. Only one team (Boston College) nationally shoots better than that right now... much less a group of teams versus a common opponent.
As expected, NC State ranks dead last (#347) in free throw percentage defense.
How did Long Beach State do? 12-of-15... 80.0%.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
T.J. Warren. His ability to produce when State needed a basket was critical. He finished the game with 23 points and five rebounds and continues to lead the ACC in scoring.
STAT OF THE GAME
50.0%. NC State has now shot 50% or higher in three of the last four games. Opposing teams are shooting just 35% over that same stretch.
NC State Head Coach Mark Gottfried:
"That was a grinder in my opinion. We just never seemed to get into a real good flow offensively, but we did what we needed to do to win."