In terms of players who are pure scorers, 6-foot-8 sophomore forward T.J. Warren of North Carolina State might be the purest of them all. He’s often been the lone weapon for the Wolfpack this season, and breaking the 20-point barrier is nothing unusual for Warren. But on Tuesday night, he even outdid himself, scoring a season-high 34 points and adding 10 rebounds in N.C. State’s 82-67 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Raleigh, N.C.
It was the fifth time that Warren has scored at least 30 points in a game this season, but only the second time in conference play. Tuesday night’s effort came at a critical time for the Wolfpack, who couldn’t afford a loss to Wake Forest that would have seriously damaged their NCAA Tournament chances. Wake already had 10 losses overall coming into the game and was just 4-6 in the ACC. But sitting at just 15-8, 5-5 in ACC play, N.C. State had no margin for error heading into Tuesday’s game.
As a star player should, Warren delivered big time in what was perhaps N.C. State’s most important game of the season. Warren finished the night 15-for-26 from the field (58 percent), the fifth-straight game in which Warren has hit at least 56 percent of his shots from the field. Over the last five games, Warren is averaging an impressive 26.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. All of this coming after he missed a game against Maryland on Jan. 20. He has come back playing his best basketball, hitting 52 field goals in five games and and adding 10 steals defensively.
For a Wolfpack team that struggles to score in situations where Warren isn’t involved, having him at the top of his game is a must as N.C. State enters its stretch run of the ACC season. The Wolfpack are at No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday, the first of three-consecutive road games that also includes games at Clemson and Virginia Tech. N.C. State’s only other road game after that is March 3 at Pittsburgh. Home games against North Carolina, Miami and Boston College end the regular-season schedule. There are plenty of winnable games there, and the tougher matchups may provide upset opportunities for the Wolfpack if Warren continues his high-scoring form.