RALEIGH – While N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried might finally have found the right mixture, it doesn’t take a master chemist to see that the main ingredient always needs to be forward T.J. Warren.
Warren scored a career-high 34 points as N.C. State claimed its fifth win in six games with an 82-67 victory against Wake Forest, enacting revenge for a one-point loss earlier in the season.
“They got us the first time at their place,” Warren said. “We just wanted to turn that around and get them at our place.”
In the closing minutes of the first half, Warren tipped an errant Wake Forest pass to himself twice before grabbing the loose ball and driving through the open court.
He slammed home a two-handed dunk, had a few words for Wake Forest forward Travis McKie, swung his arms in front of him and yelled, ‘Let’s go,’ to his trailing teammates inside PNC Arena. The play sparked Warren and N.C. State, which went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half to put away the game.
“He’s one of the best I’ve ever had,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I’ve had some good players play for me. He (has) got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique. … Right now, he’s playing with a lot of confidence too – a lot of confidence.”
So are his teammates, who are in the middle of their best stretch of conference play and their best streak since winning seven straight nonconference games
During that winning streak earlier in the year however, N.C. State (16-8, 6-5 ACC) played only two major conference opponents.
The Wolfpack has won five of its past six games, a stretch that directly mirrors Ralston Turner’s entrance into the starting lineup. Moore had 16 points, second on the team, Monday night.
“The main thing for us is we just want to keep getting better especially as the season goes on,” Turner said. “However we can do that, we’re happy with that.”
To started the second half, N.C. State crept away from Wake Forest (14-10, 4-7), which has now lost 27 of 29 ACC road games under Jeff Bzdelik, consistently scoring twice for every made bucket by the Demon Deacons.
The Wolfpack then exploded for 12 unanswered to make time the only deciding factor.
During the stretch, Wake Forest attempted just one field goal while turning over the ball twice and missing three free throws.
The Demon Deacons also missed 10 of 11 consecutive free throws at one point in the second half.
“This is good chemistry right now,” said Warren, who posted his fifth 30-point game of the season. “Everybody is playing well right now. … We just need to keep getting wins.”
The last time these two teams played, Wake Forest won on a last-second, coast-to-coast lay-up by Cody Miller-McIntyre, who returned to the lineup Monday after missing the Demon Deacons’ loss to Duke.
There was no need for last-second heroics Tuesday.
Warren made sure of that, handing Wake Forest its fourth straight defeat.
“I like the wins,” said Warren, choosing victories instead of points. “The wins are pretty much better, just keep racking up the wins.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org