N.C. State outlasts Florida State, 74-70
There's a confidence that's growing with the North Carolina State basketball team after every game. Even with the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading scorer, T.J. Warren, sitting on the bench after fouling out late in Wednesday night's 74-70 victory over Florida State, the Wolfpack now know someone will step up with a key basket or big stop when it counts.
For the second straight game, Desmond Lee was that player.
Up by two points with under 20 seconds left, Ralston Turner missed a 3-pointer and Lee tried to tip in the rebound. He missed, but made his second effort with 9 seconds remaining to secure N.C. State's (14-7, 4-4) third straight victory.
"Ralston got off a good shot and I knew I was going to the basket," said Lee (11 points). "One way or another, I was going to grab the rebound or get the tip in. I just tried to stay with it."
For the second straight year, Warren scored at least 30 points against the Seminoles (13-7, 4-4). Wednesday night he had 30 points — 20 in the first half — and grabbed seven rebounds.
Without Warren's hot hand in the first half, the Wolfpack would have been in trouble against the taller Seminoles. Warren scored 15 of N.C. State's first 24 points and the Wolfpack led by as many as seven in the first half.
"I wanted to come out aggressive and make plays," Warren said. "Right now it's all about winning."
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was impressed with Warren's play.
"He is an outstanding, savvy player," Hamilton said. "He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Put him in any setting and the ball always seems to be in his hands. He is one of the most efficient players I have seen in a long time."
The Seminoles tried to use its size advantage in the first half, especially with N.C. State center Jordan Vandenberg out with foul trouble and backup Beejay Anya sent to the sideline with a right leg injury with 13:39 left in the half. Okaro White (20 points) scored five points and helped the Seminoles pull into a 28-28 tie with about 4 minutes left.
The Wolfpack's smaller lineup, with Tyler Lewis running the point, went on an 11-5 run to close out the half up by six, capped by a Warren 3-pointer with 2 seconds left. Despite the size difference, N.C. State outscored the Seminoles in the paint 22-14 in the half, and 42-26 overall.
"I'm really proud of my team," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "A lot of things happened in the game that they had to overcome. Tyler played some great minutes and had seven assists and no turnovers. He made some great passes at key times. He is playing with a high level of confidence. T.J. was phenomenal and Desmond made a heck of a play again."
Down the stretch, the Wolfpack had to hold off Florida State after Warren fouled out with 1:36 remaining and his team holding a 72-68 lead. White made only two of four free throws but Lee scored five of the Pack's final seven points — including the tip-in.
"You are only as good as your last game," Gottfried said. "A win is a win and a loss is a loss. We have to come back tomorrow at practice and make sure we work at getting better."