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November 8, 2013

Second-half surge lifts NC State

NC State might have a relatively brand-new squad, but the offensive execution in the second half was in midseason form.

Sophomore forward T.J. Warren exploded for 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, and junior college wing Desmond Lee had a memorable debut with 24 to lead NC State to a 98-77 win over Appalachian State on Friday in front of 13,164 fans at PNC Arena.

"Desmond stepped up and I'm proud of him," Warren said. "He has been working hard in practice, and wants to learn and get better. He had an amazing game tonight.

"I love these fans and I love putting on the NC State jersey every day. I had a good feeling and we got the win."

The Wolfpack shot 24 of 35 for 68.6 percent in the second half, with Warren putting together a video on how to feast near the basket. NCSU was clinging to a 43-40 lead to start the second half with 19:39 left in the game. Appalachian State, which was playing without its best player, junior wing Jay Canty (academically ineligible), had junior starting point guard Michael Neal on the bench with three fouls and sophomore center Michael Obacha soon joined him with three.

NC State exploded against the reserve-dominated lineup with a dominating 22-4 run to take a 64-44 lead with 14:07 left in the game. The Wolfpack had a bit of a lull to allow the Mountaineers to cut it to 16 with 7:08 left, but Warren responded with four straight layups, one of which became a three-point play to take a 87-62 lead with 4:50 left.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried and the players credited their defense in the second half for blowing the game wide open.

"We have to get better sustaining our defensive, but I thought there was some spurts where defensively we were really quick and defended really well," Gottfried said. "Our defense turned up our offense. We were able to get some easy baskets and get out and run."

While Warren had a smooth or subtle 27 points, Lee was anything but. The Norfolk native has waited three years to play his first Division I college basketball game, and he provided a spark right from the beginning. Lee and Lewis both had 13 first-half points, and the former kept attacking the basket throughout the contest.

"I was just excited to be out there and a dream come true," Lee said.

Lee worked the baseline well and Gottfried credited his defensive intensity.

"I thought he was really good and had a great start," Gottfried said. "That always helps your confidence. I liked his toughness defensively too."

NC State point guards Tyler Lewis and Anthony Barber, who also played parts of the game together, meshed well for a combined 28 points and 12 assists, while only committing three turnovers. NCSU finished with 19 assists on its 39 made field goals.

NC State played small ball due to the injury of 7-foot-1 fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg, who is out with an ankle injury. NCSU's other true center, 6-8, 337-pound freshman BeeJay Anya, logged seven minutes.

"We are small when we go that way," Gottfried said. "We aren't small ball, we are tiny ball. When you have Tyler and Cat and Desmond, you have three very good penetrating guards. Your hope is somebody gains an advantage."

Senior forward Tevin Baskin had a career-high 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four steals to lead Appalachian State. The Mountaineers shot 28 of 57 from the field for 49.1 percent.

NC State returns to action at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Cincinnati. The Bearcats defeated the Eagles 74-61 on Friday.

"We got a long ways to go, but a lot to build on for these young guys," Gottfried said.

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