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November 27, 2013

Quick hits from NC State's win over Florida Gulf Coast

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 82-62 crowd-pleasing win in front of 11,123 fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh Tuesday evening.

Play of the game

Fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg made his season-debut, and nothing announced his debut better than on State's third offensive possession. After sophomore forward T.J. Warren missed a jumper, Vandenberg had not one, not two but three attempts at a put back around the basket, finally getting the third to fall to put NCSU up 5-4. The play epitomized the impact Vandenberg had in the game.

Highlight of the game

This also goes to Vandenberg. The Pack was up 48-30 when freshman point guard Anthony Barber, who made his starting debut, raced down the right side of the court and threw a line drive lob pass to the big man. Vandenberg, 7-foot-1 and a much sleeker 245 pounds after playing last year close to 280, rose up, grabbed the pass and turned in mid air for a left handed dunk. The play drew the crowd to its feet and prompted a 30-second timeout for Florida Gulf Coast with 10:26 remaining.

Player of the game

You would think, based on the prior two categories, this was Vandenberg's night. But the player of the game was Warren, who poured in a season-high 30 points, one off his career best. Warren started slow, making just one of his first five shots, but he finished knocking down 13 of 18 from the field, including 1 of 2 three-pointers, and all three of his free throws. He added nine rebounds, narrowly missing what would have been his second double-double of the season. Warren matched his season-opening total for most field goals made in a game in his career.

The Vandenberg debut

That's not to say that Vandenberg did not impress. He finished with seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in just 21 minutes, his playing time limited because of four personal fouls. That was one point and one rebound off Vandeberg's career best in both categories. The 21 minutes were four shy of the most he's ever played. He had 11 rebounds in 25 minutes at Arizona as a freshman, and scored eight points as a sophomore versus Georgia Tech a season-later.

Vandenberg was part of a new-look lineup for NC State. State went bigger, with freshman Lennard Freeman sliding over to power forward and redshirt junior wing Ralston Turner moving to the bench. Head coach Mark Gottfried said after the game that the change was partially motivated by Turner's foul troubles. He fouled out in two of the first four games and had four fouls in another.

The move also allowed Warren to play his more natural small forward position, and by going big NC State was able to dominate on the boards, outrebounding FGCU 43-25 overall and 13-8 on the offensive glass despite NCSU shooting 54.8 percent from the field compared to 34.5 percent for the Eagles. That was NCSU's best rebounding margin of the year, topping the plus-8 against Campbell Nov. 16.

State parlayed its offensive rebounding output into a 17-9 advantage in second-chance points.

NCSU also went with a more natural rotation of Vandenberg, Freeman and freshmen Kyle Washington and BeeJay Anya in the paint and Warren, Barber, Turner, junior wing Desmond Lee and sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis on the perimeter.

Washington and Anya both scored six points a piece, with Washington adding five boards and Anya a pair of blocked shots. That was a new career-high in points for both rookies.

A new point guard

Gottfried said after the game that Barber had fully caught up from missing a couple of weeks in the preseason with a concussion, and thus it was time to move him into the starting lineup because he changes things for NCSU defensively.

Barber responded by scoring 12 points and dishing out a game-high six assists (although he also had a game-high five turnovers) in 27 minutes. That matched Barber's personal best in the assist category that he set in the season-opening win over Appalachian State Nov. 8.

Lewis moved to the bench, and his time was limited to 10 minutes after he picked up two quick fouls in the first half. He finished with two points and two assists. Those numbers are far down from his season averages entering Tuesday of 9.0 points, 4.8 assists and 32.5 minutes a game.

What the win means

NC State is now 3-2 on the young season. That is NCSU's fewest wins total in the month of November since 2002 when the Pack only played (and won) two games that year. FGCU falls to 4-2, and NC State takes the first ever games played between the two squads. The Wolfpack is 12-6 all-time against teams currently in the Atlantic Sun.

NCSU is now 16-8 in games after a loss under Gottfried, in his third season at the helm.

Other stats of note

- State had a minor 14-13 advantage in points off turnovers after both teams committed 11 turnovers. NC State continues to do a good job avoiding turnovers this year. The 11 actually matched its season high, and every game this year the Pack has not committed more turnovers than its opponent.

- FGCU earned the nickname "Dunk City" last year, but they had just one dunk in this contest. By contrast, it was NCSU who got out in transition and put on the highlight show. NC State ended with a 18-9 advantage in fast break points.

- NC State crunched the Eagles 54-22 in the paint, and the reserves for the Wolfpack outpaced their counterparts 22-14. Walk-on guard Patrick Wallace even got into the action, making a three-pointer. Wallace, who hit the late three to force overtime against NCCU a week ago, is now 4 of 5 from long range this year.

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