T.J. Warren is a tremendous basketball player for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. But if the Wolfpack are going to be worth anything this year in the ACC, more players than just Warren are going to have to contribute offensively.
N.C. State fell to 9-3 on the season with a 68-64 loss to the 25th-ranked Missouri Tigers in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday night, despite 24 points from Warren. Warren was a monster for the Wolfpack, adding 13 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals to his scoring, while shooting 11 for 23 from the field.
In the second half, Warren got a little bit of help that allowed the Wolfpack to maintain a lead. Those points came from reserve forward Kyle Washington, who hit a jumper with 8:56 to play in the game that gave N.C. State a 10-point advantage at 53-43.
Washington finished with 10 points and guard Desmond Lee added 12, but guard Anthony Barber scored just six points on woeful 2-for-11 shooting from the field. Warren made his final field goal with more than 12 minutes to go in the second half, a three-pointer that made it 46-41 Wolfpack.
With Warren locked down by the Missouri defense, N.C. State needed other players to step up. Once Washington hit his shot to make it a 10-point game, no Wolfpack player emerged. N.C. State’s next field goal didn’t come until the 5:08 mark, when Washington scored again to break a 54-54 tie.
From there, the Wolfpack hung in with a pair of three-pointers by Ralston Turner (both assisted by Warren), each restoring a two-point edge for N.C. State. Those assists were all Warren could give the Wolfpack, as he didn’t attempt a field goal in the final six minutes of the game. Down three points on N.C. State’s next-to-last possession, Warren wasn’t given a touch of the basketball before Turner missed a contested three-pointer.
Once Warren’s scoring was eliminated from the equation, the Wolfpack’s offense all but disappeared, as did their chances of upsetting the 11-1 Tigers. If N.C. State can’t find a way to get players besides Warren to consistently contribute offensively, the Wolfpack don’t stand to be much of a threat in the ACC where tough defensive teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Virginia lurk, among others.
N.C. State has one more non-conference tuneup against UNC-Greensboro on Monday night before starting conference play. The opening of the league slate does the Wolfpack no favors, as N.C. State will play Pitt, Notre Dame, and Virginia in its first three ACC games.
There’s no question about Warren (23.9 points per game) being one of the ACC’s best players. But some of his teammates need to start helping him out, and quickly.