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November 2, 2013
Sophomore forward T.J. Warren powered NC State to an 87-62 victory over Morehouse in the Wolfpack's final exhibition game of the season on Saturday night in front of 5,297 fans at PNC Arena. He finished with a game-best 26 points and 10 rebounds, equaling the line he recorded in the team's first exhibition contest against UNC-Pembroke.
However, NC State was not affected by any of the lapses that plagued them in the exhibition opener, a 96-85 victory.
"I thought, overall, playing two exhibition games helped our team, helped our young guys," head coach Mark Gottfried said. "I thought, even from the first game to the second, we got a little bit better.
"We took a step forward and got better. Now it's time to move forward and get ready to play real games."
NCSU dominated from beginning to end in the contest, thanks in large part to Warren's prowess on both ends of the floor. Gottfried said he challenged the forward to contribute in all facets of the game — and he reiterated that message to the player after the game — but an all-around effort was exactly what Warren delivered against Morehouse.
"T.J. can score as well as anybody in the country," Gottfried said. "I challenged for him to become a complete player — not just an offensive scorer, but also a good defender and to rebound the ball. He knows if we play a small lineup, he has to be a key rebounder for us, and he's done that, too.
"He does some things defensively, helping at the right times, and he's growing as a player. I don't know if last year he was really good at those things. He's a little better now, plus he's rebounding now. He can be a great rebounder.
"He's so much further along than he was a year ago, he has taken great steps."
In addition to Warren's impressive outing, Junior guard Desmond Lee chipped in 13 points and freshman Kyle Washington finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in just 18 minutes of play. Washington's contribution was huge in the absence of center Jordan Vandenberg, the senior who was lost for four to six weeks on Oct. 30.
Washington tallied the first bucket of the night for NC State to give them a 2-0 lead less than 30 seconds into the contest and the Pack never looked back.
Morehouse did make it a tied ballgame at 4-4 two minutes into regulation, but State used some great first-half defense to pull away from the Maroon Tigers. The game would not be tied again, as State limited their opponents to a 32.4 percent shooting effort from the floor in the first half.
State's lead quickly hit double-digits, and Morehouse would not come within six points the rest of the way. The Pack's transition game, which totaled six points in the first half, really took off after the break and the team finished with a 21-4 advantage in that department. NCSU also enjoyed a big advantage in the paint, and outscored an overmatched Morehouse squad, 42-28, down low.
The Pack made more than half of their shots and finished 31 of 57 for the game for a 54.4 percent shooting effort. The team also converted on six of its 14 three-point attempts, and they were effective from the free throw line while hitting on 76 percent of their 25 opportunities.
Five State players finished with double-digit points, as redshirt junior Ralston Turner and rookie Anthony Barber also tallied 11 points, joining Warren, Lee and Washington with at least 10. Barber also dished out six assists in 26 minutes, while fellow point guard Tyler Lewis added six points and four assists against just one turnover in 26 minutes of action.
Barber in particular looked as comfortable on the floor as he has in an NC State uniform and played well, showing the ability to team up with Lewis in the backcourt.
"I think Cat is going to get better and better by the game," Gottfired noted. "I think you're going to watch him keep improving. He's getting more confident.
"We played Tyler and Cat together; sometimes we might be at a disadvantage defensively [doing that], but hopefully offensively we gain some of that back with two quick, full-court type players."
For Morehouse, junior forward D'Anthony Relaford led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore center Tyrone Brown added 12 and eight, respectively, while junior forward Cornez Nesbitt chipped in 13 points.
The Wolfpack returns to action on Friday for the 2013-14 season opener. NC State will host Appalachian State at PNC Arena at 7 p.m.
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