Sophomore forward T.J. Warren simply refused to let N.C. State lose on Monday night in Pittsburgh, scoring a career-high 41 points and helping State beat Pittsburgh, 74-67.
Warren’s 41-point outburst is the most in N.C. State history since former N.C. State guard Rodney Monroe scored 48 points against Georgia Tech on Jan. 13, 1991.
State had lost four of its last five coming into the game against Pittsburgh (22-8 overall, 10-7 ACC). But Warren, a contender for ACC Player of the Year, gave the Wolfpack (18-12 overall, 8-9 ACC) the win it so desperately needeed, notching five rebounds and four steals against Pitt.
Warren’s eruption against the Panthers came just five days after setting his previous career-high, a sensational 36-point performance against UNC-Chapel Hill in Raleigh. The sophomore has now scored at least 30 points in three of his last four games.
Freshman forward Lennard Freeman scrapped with the Panthers’ big men all night, scoring 10 points and snatching eight rebounds, including six offensive boards.
Freshman guard Anthony “Cat” Barber played a fantastic game too, totaling nine points, five rebounds and five assists while not committing a single turnover.
State shot 57.7 percent (15-for-26) as a team after the break and went six-of-11 from long range.
The Pack outmuscled Pitt on the blocks, outrebounding the Panthers, 35-23. State translated its rebounding advantage into offensive production, dominating the Panthers in second-chance points, 16-0.
Pittsburgh took the lead early, but Warren and Barber kept the Wolfpack in striking distance.
Pitt went on an 14-3 run starting at the 11:50 mark, featuring four 3-pointers and a one-handed jam from senior forward Lamar Patterson.
The Pack, on the other hand, went on a four-minute drought after a floater from Warren with 7:35 left in the first half. Barber ended the Pack’s dry spell with a layup, sparking a 6-0 run of its own to end the first half. State went into halftime trailing, 36-31.
The Panthers shot 59 percent (13-for-22) from the field in the first half, including going six-of-11 from long range. N.C. State only sunk one-of-eight 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, but grabbed seven offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points to keep pace with Pitt’s efficient offense.
The Pack fought desperately to narrow the Panthers’ lead out of the break. Warren scored 18 of State’s first 24 points in the second half, including a steal and coast-to-coast layup to tie the game at 44-apiece with 15:08 remaining. The sophomore from Durham carried the Wolfpack all night against Pitt, hitting a trademark floater to give State its first lead in the game at the 13:04 mark.
The Pack clung onto its lead through the next ten minutes thanks to its superstar sophomore, a pair of 3-pointers from Barber and junior guard Ralston Turner, and a rim-rocking dunk from freshman forward Beejay Anya.
The Panthers made a 3-pointer with 3:34 left to cut State’s lead to one, the Pack’s superstar sophomore answered with a three of his own. Warren swished a 3-pointer from five feet beyond the 3-point line with the shot clock expiring, giving his team a four-point cushion. Just over a minute later, the Durham native hit a free-throw line jumper to give the Pack another four-point lead.
That four-point margin was all State would need to seal the victory, as Warren fittingly finished off the game with a breakaway dunk.