CORAL GABLES, Fla. Another big second half from forward T.J. Warren gave N.C. State a character road win one week after leaving North Carolina with a loss.
Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer, bounced back from a foul-plagued first half to finish with a game-high 27 points, none bigger than the five free throws he converted down the stretch as the Wolfpack (16-8, 6-5) held off Miami 56-55 Saturday at the BankUnited Center.
“This is a big win, especially on the road,” said Warren, who scored 19 points in the second half. “It’s tough trying to play on the road, but I think our team does a pretty good job of getting wins on the road. That is the main thing. Come out here with focus and poise and try to get it done on the road.”
Wolfpack sharpshooter Ralston Turner added 17 points. He made four of the Pack’s seven 3-pointers in the first half to help take a 32-26 lead.
The Wolfpack needed every bit of the nine-point lead it built on a Warren dunk off a steal in the open court with 9 minutes, 37 seconds left to survive a wild rally by the Hurricanes. Warren’s dunk made it 45-36, but the Hurricanes (11-13, 2-9) answered with a 15-6 run to tie the score at 51 with 1:37 left.
“It was very important to get off to the fast start,” Turner said. “Throughout the year you’re going have to win some games like that. Especially with the Carolina loss it would have been easy to probably put your head down but we didn’t do that. We pushed through it.”
Miami guard Rion Brown (20 points) provided the spark the Hurricanes needed with a 3-pointer from the left wing to pull Miami within 47-43 with 5:48 left. Manu Lecomte then hit a pull-up jumper over Tyler Lewis, and Brown made two free throws with 1:37 left for the 51-all tie.
But Warren, steadily enhancing his reputation as a closer, hit five of six free throw attempts to help the Wolfpack even its ACC record after a 1-4 start.
Warren hit two go-ahead free throws with 1:26 left for a 53-51 lead and watched Miami come within a free throw from senior Raphael Akpejiori of forcing overtime.
With Miami trailing 56-54, Akpejiori went to the line after grabbing an offensive rebound with 3.5 seconds left. Akpejiori made the first free throw but missed the second, and Wolfpack freshman Kyle Washington grabbed the defensive rebound.
Ideally, the Wolfpack, who came in ranked last in the ACC in every major 3-point percentage category – including shooting percentage (.289) and attempts (305) and second to last in makes (88) – would like to bottle a first half in which they converted seven.
Turner hit four, Warren two and Lewis added the other. A big component of the Hurricanes’ second-half rally was the Wolfpack failing to convert a single 3-point shot.
“I think more consistent 3-point shooting would help us a lot,” Turner said. “Obviously, in the second half, if some of the shots would have fallen, maybe the game wouldn’t have been as close. But just moving forward if we all can put two halves together I think we would be better off.”
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