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December 1, 2013

Quick hits from NC State's win over EKU

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 75-56 win over Eastern Kentucky in front of 10,221 fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Saturday night.

Play of the game

Eastern Kentucky controlled the game for much of the first half and it was a back-and-forth affair early in the second.

NC State was finally able to pull away midway through the period and the key play that took it from a two-point game to a six-point difference was a T.J. Warren three. The sophomore wing was knocked to the ground on the shot, which was assisted by rookie point man Anthony Barber, and made the free throw for the old fashioned four-point play. It was part of an incredible stretch that sealed the game and featured many noteworthy highlights for the Pack.

Highlight of the game

As mentioned above, there was no shortage of competitors for the highlight of the game. Fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg had a few dunks and alley oops, while a few others had acrobatic finishes through contact.

But we have to highlight the one-minute of play that helped the Pack extend their lead to double digits. With State up by seven at 56-51 and just under five minutes to play, Barber made a nice pass to Vandenberg, who caught it in stride and slammed it home.

Then the center came up with a block on the other end that got the Pack in transition and led to a Desmond Lee behind-the-back pass that was flushed by redshirt junior wing Ralston Turner to make it 60-51. Warren would make a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 11 shortly after and the Pack would never look back.

Player of the game

How can it be anybody other than Warren, who finished with his second straight 30-point game. He also notched his second double-double of the season with 30 points and 11 rebounds. The sophomore wing netted 26 points and seven boards after the break.

Warren's night increases his season average to 22.7 points per game, which would unofficially tie him for 22nd nationally. He is also believed to be the first Pack player with back-to-back 30-point games since Rodney Monroe in 1991 (32 vs. Virginia, 31 at Tennessee).

NC State has had four 30-point games under Mark Gottfried, and three have been authored by T.J. Warren.

Tale of two halves

The new-look NCSU starting lineup of Barber, Lee, Warren, rookie forward Lennard Freeman and Vandenberg was successful for the second time in two chances, but they did get off to a sluggish start.

EKU led for the last 16 minutes of the first half and the Colonels actually made it a 10-point game with five minutes to go.

Sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis came off the bench to provide some of the first-half spark. He recorded all six of his points on three straight buckets in his seven minutes played during the first half.

The rest of the team got hot after they went into the break down, 27-21. After shooting 32.1 percent (9-28) in the first 20 minutes, including misses on all seven three-point attempts and a 3-of-7 mark at the free throw line, the team stepped it up in all three areas during the second half.

NCSU shot a blistering 65.6 percent (21-32) from the floor in the second frame and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the free throw line; they also their only two long-range shots in the second half.

As mentioned earlier, Warren led the way with 26 points and seven boards in the half. Vandenberg had eight points and six boards, while Barber notched eight points and five assists in the second.

NC State dished out 11 of its 14 assists and outscored EKU, 54-29, after the break. They also outrebounded their opponents 23-11 and forced seven turnovers to help pull away in the second half.


Excuse the corny headline, but the fifth-year senior has been excellent in his two games since returning from injury. Vandenberg debuted with seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in his first action of the season against Florida Gulf Coast.

The big man might have been even better on Saturday night, when he poured in a career-best 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds, to go along with a pair of blocks. He clearly changes the Pack on the defensive end with just his presence and effort.

He was also an efficient 7-of-9 from the floor with an array of dunks and alley oops; as head coach Mark Gottfried noted in his postgame press conference, the team is learning they can just throw the ball up near the rim and he'll usually end up with it.

What the win means

The Pack moves to 4-2 on the year and NCSU is now 17-3 in home nonconference games during November, dating back to 2008. Since 1999, State is 58-13 during November since 1999.

The Pack returns to action on Dec. 4, when they host Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wildcats are 4-4 on the year with wins over Eastern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, IUPUI and Gardner-Webb. They have lost to Stanford, Illinois State, Missouri and UCLA.

Other stats of note

- Eastern Kentucky actually edged NC State in points off of turnover, 15-13; NCSU committed 10 turnovers, while the Colonels turned it over 11 times. It continues the season-long streak of the opponent finishing with more turnovers than the Pack.

- NC State finished with a 44-30 advantage on the boards and outscored their opponents, 44-24 in the paint.

- NCSU also had advantages in fast-break points, 17-8, and second-chance points, 10-6, but EKU's bench did outscore the Pack's, 18-11.

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