Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 9, 2014
RALEIGH — T.J. Warren has been the best scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference all season. He’s making a historic late-season push to be the league’s player of the year, too.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore scored a career-high 42 points — topping the 41 he had a game earlier — to help North Carolina State beat Boston College 78-68 on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams. It made him the first ACC player to score 40 points in consecutive games in nearly two dozen years and just the third ever to do it in consecutive league games.
Warren, who entered the game averaging 24.2 points and shooting a league-best 52.8 percent, had 22 by halftime and shot 14-for-23 for the Wolfpack (19-12, 9-9 ACC). He also matched his career high of 13 rebounds and made 14 of 17 free throws, helping N.C. State push ahead in the final 6 minutes after blowing a 14-point second-half lead against the Eagles (8-23, 4-14).
Warren wouldn’t lobby to be player of the year afterward, but his coach didn’t hesitate.
“T.J. was marvelous,” third-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “You know, I’ve been around college basketball a lot, played college basketball. I’ve coached in a lot of different leagues. What you’re watching is not something that you see very often.”
It marked the third time in four games that Warren had scored at least 36 points and the ninth time he had scored at least 30 points this season. In the past two games, he’s made 30 of 45 shots (67 percent).
“I just have a good feel for it right now, especially in the halfcourt sets,” Warren said. “My midrange (game) is doing pretty good right now. I just want to keep that up going into the tournament.”
It marked the first time an ACC player scored at least 40 points in consecutive games since Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson did it in December 1990, while Warren became the first since 1957 to do it in two straight league games. Overall, only six other ACC players have done it.
Warren is the first N.C. State player to score 40 in consecutive games since program great David Thompson did it in December 1974.
“I mean, numbers don’t lie,” junior guard Des Lee said of whether Warren should be ACC player of the year. “We ain’t even got to go there. If he don’t get it, then something’s wrong. … I mean, what more do they want him to do?”
Still, Warren had to outduel Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan to level the Wolfpack’s league record heading into this week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro. Hanlan finished with 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting.
Fittingly, Warren led the Wolfpack’s push to avoid a bad home loss.
First he drove the left baseline and hit a floater while drawing the foul, a three-point play that put N.C. State up 59-58 with 5:58 left. Warren grabbed a loose rebound in transition and scored on a putback on the next possession, then followed with two free throws that capped his personal 7-0 burst to give N.C. State a 63-58 lead with 4:42 left.
Warren also assisted on Lee’s 3-pointer during the Wolfpack’s clinching push, then matched his 41 points from the Pitt win by hitting a pair of free throws with 2:18 left to give N.C. State a 69-60 lead.
Warren, who will be the first Wolfpack player to lead the ACC in scoring since the 1995-96 season, set his new career high with a free throw at the 1:19 mark.
By the final minute, N.C. State fans were chanting Warren’s name in what could be his final home game if he heads to the NBA draft, followed by chants of “One more year!”
“We got a good look at arguably the best scorer in the country,” BC junior Ryan Anderson said. “He did his thing well today, he was aggressive from the tip, got a couple of early layups that really got him going in transition, and after that, a guy like that is tough to stop.
“He definitely made a good impression if this was his last game at N.C. State.”
Lee finished with 11 points as the only other player in double figures for the Wolfpack, who shot 49 percent. N.C. State earned the No. 7 seed at the ACC tournament and will play the Virginia Tech-Miami winner in Thursday’s second round.
Anderson added 15 points for the Eagles, who shot 42 percent. BC is the No. 14 seed and will play No. 11 seed Georgia Tech in Wednesday’s first round.