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December 5, 2013

Quick hits from NC State's win over Northwestern

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 69-48 win over Northwestern in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge in front of 11,459 fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh Wednesday evening.

Play of the game

NC State seized control of this game in the first half and never really looked back. One play that helped the Wolfpack dictate the action from nearly start to finish was when a pair of freshmen big men connected for a nice dunk. Kyle Washington made a heads up pass to Lennard Freeman for the easy score, giving NCSU an 18-11 lead with 6:32 to go in the first half.

Highlight of the game

NC State executed a pretty fast break late in the game. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren grabbed the defensive rebound on a missed shot from Northwestern senior wing Drew Crawford, spun away from a defender attempting to steal the ball and passed ahead to sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis. Lewis pushed down the court and threw a perfect lob pass to fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg for the dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet and giving NCSU a 64-41 lead, its largest advantage of the game, with 3:32 left.

Player of the game

Warren looked like he was going to be a runaway winner in this category at halftime when he had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and sent NC State SID officials pouring through the record books to see when exactly was the last time a Wolfpack player had 30 or more points in three straight games. Warren did not reach 30, but he still scored 22 points to lead all scorers, grabbed eight rebounds and had a game-high three steals in 33 minutes.

Warren has scored at least 20 points in five of State's seven games and nabbed at least eight rebounds in five as well.

Big men shine

The difference in this game can be found in the lane. NC State had a lopsided 38-10 points in the paint advantage. It was 20-0 when the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime. Freeman gave Warren a run for his money in the player of the game category by finishing with his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. This was the first time in Freeman's career that the starting power forward had reached double digits in either points or rebounds.

Vandenberg also continues to shine in his return to the lineup after missing the first four games with an ankle sprain. The 7-foot-1 center had 12 points for his second straight double-digit scoring output to go with three rebounds and a new career-high five blocked shots.

Freeman also blocked a shot, and collectively as a team NCSU set a new season-best with seven swats.

Playing defense

The blocked shots total is a good segue way into one of the main themes of the night for NC State. The Pack held Northwestern to a staggeringly poor 13-of-52 shooting effort for 25.0 percent overall. The Wildcats was just 6 of 22 on three-pointers for 27.3 percent. That was easily Northwestern's worst shooting performance of the year, surpassing the 36.2 percent night against Illinois State Nov. 17.

A better way to put Northwestern's shooting night into perspective: only North Carolina Central in 2008 (20.3 percent) and Wofford in 2001 (24.5 percent) have shot worse in a game at the PNC Arena.

Spotted at the game

Former NCSU wing Gavin Grant was in attendance. Also showing up with a few minutes left before halftime was junior wing Brandon Ingram from Kinston (N.C.) High. Ingram has an offer from the Wolfpack and is rated by Rivals.com as a four-star recruit and the No. 31 player in the 2015 class.

What the win means

NC State improved to 5-2 and has won three straight while Northwestern dropped below .500 at 4-5. NCSU snapped a five-game losing streak in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge and is now 6-8 all-time in the made-for-television series. NC State also improved to 4-1 for the series against Northwestern and 2-1 against the Wildcats in the Challenge. State is 38-22 in its history against Big 10 foes.

Other stats of note

- NCSU protected the ball extremely well, turning it over just five times. Two of them came in the final 1:27. Had they gone without those turnovers, they would have set a new PNC Arena record for fewest turnovers in a game by a team. Instead, they tied for second fewest behind the four NCSU had against UNC a year ago. If it had stayed at three turnovers, it would have also tied the second fewest ever in a game for NCSU trailing only the two they had versus Georgia Tech in 1991.

NC State has not committed more than 11 turnovers in a game yet this season. Northwestern had 11 turnovers Wednesday, helping NCSU own a 9-4 edge in points off turnovers.

- NC State outrebounded Northwestern 39-37 overall, but due to poor shooting percentage of the Wildcats, Northwestern had a small 12-10 advantage on the offensive glass (NCSU shot 45.9 percent by comparison). Still, NCSU had a 15-10 edge in second-chance points.

- It's safe to say Northwestern does not run much. In fact they did not even score a fast break point Wednesday. NC State had 13 by comparison.

- The one area Northwestern did do better: bench scoring. Their reserves outscored State's 20-16, with redshirt sophomore guard Tre Demps leading the way for the Wildcats' bench with 14 points.

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