ACC Basketball

N.C. State wins one for the ACC

GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES

Suck on that Shaka Smart. No, wait…Xavier moved out of the A10 to the Big East. Damn you realignment!

Of course this has nothing to do with ACC pride or a non-controversial pissing contest between the VCU head coach and Duke’s Coach K. This is about winning a championship. This is about North Carolina State being one game closer to achieving that.

The Wolfpack played their best game of the year (good time for it). In fact, the 15-point margin of victory doesn’t even do the win justice as N.C. State cotrolled it front the start.

The game was suppose to feature two stars, State’s T.J. Warren vs. Xavier’s Semaj Christon, but both struggled in the first half. Christon had more turnovers than shots made, while Warren had more fouls than made baskets for most of the first half.

So now it became a question of, whose supporting cast would step up during the team’s biggest game of the year. The answer was the Wolfpack.

Tyler Lewis ran an efficient half court offense, while Ralston Turner, Jordan Vandenberg and Kyle Washington picked up the slack in scoring. Hell, even BeeJay Anya had a nice basket. The only reason the Musketeers kept it close in the first half was because big-ass Matt Stainbrook was unstoppable in the paint, hitting 6-7, scoring 12 points.

However, after hitting just three baskets in the game’s first 24 minute, T.J. Warren finally found his groove, hitting his next six shots, turning a slim four-point lead into a double-digit lead with eight minutes to go. N.C. State would never look back.

While Warren finished with a game high 25 points, Ralston Turner remained aggressive, scoring 17 and really is looking like a legit second-option on this team. However, I’d argue the MVP of the game may have been Tyler Lewis.

State head coach Mark Gottfried decided to keep the more dynamic Anthony Barber on the bench in the second half, sticking with the more reliable Lewis and the moved payed off. The sophomore former McDonald’s All-American finished with just one turnover, dishing out eight assists, one more than Xavier had as a team. His counterpart, Dee Davis, hit just 1-4 shots and Semaj Christon turned it over seven times.

STATS THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME: While shooting 64% from 2-point range would normally be the more impressive stat, I’m going with blocks. N.C. State had nine blocks to Xavier’s zero, led by Vandenberg’s four. He never had more than two in any game this season.

LOOKING AHEAD: North Carolina State will face 5-seeded Saint Louis. The Billikens were 25-2, winners of 18-straight at one point in the season. That streak included wins over tournament teams Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, VCU and George Washington. However, they stumbled at the end, dropping four of five, including two against teams outside the top-100. Right now, Ken Pom says Saint Louis has a 59% chance of winning. Me, I’d flip that to N.C. State.

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