Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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Warren, N.C. State cruise past Xavier

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[March 19, 2014]  DAYTON, Ohio  Nobody doubts that sophomore guard T.J. Warren is North Carolina State's star player.

However, if the Wolfpack are to advance in the NCAA Tournament, additional players need to contribute.

"When other guys step up and score and everybody's chipping in, we're a much better team," coach Mark Gottfried said.

Warren scored 25 points and guard Ralston Turner added 17, lifting North Carolina State to a 74-59 victory over Xavier in a first-round NCAA Tournament game between No. 12 seeds on Tuesday night at the University of Dayton Arena.

Wolfpack freshman guard Anthony Barber played only eight minutes due to illness, but Tyler Lewis, a sophomore guard, stepped up to score seven points and hand out eight assists in 32 minutes.

"Tyler was terrific," Gottfried said. "He played some great minutes."

North Carolina State (22-13) advances to face No. 5 seed Saint Louis (26-6) on Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Gottfried said he is unfamiliar with the Billikens.

"I really haven't watched them," Gottfried said. "We spent so much time trying to get ready for Xavier. I'll watch film of them on the plane. It's a quick turnaround, but we will get ready."


Xavier (21-13) played the game in a hostile environment, the home arena of its longtime Atlantic 10 Conference nemesis, Dayton. The Musketeers dealt with a smattering of boos but also heard from the sizable contingent of Xavier fans who made the 45-minute drive up Interstate 75. The Xavier supporters had little to cheer about.

"We picked the wrong night to play bad," Musketeers coach Chris Mack said. "Hats off to N.C. State. They've been playing their best basketball of the year of late. Our inability to take care of the ball prevented us from getting over the hump in the second half."

Junior center Matt Stainbrook led the Xavier with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Stainbrook's health was a big concern for Xavier coming in. The junior big man strained a ligament in his left knee during a loss at Seton Hall on March 3. He missed the regular-season finale against Villanova and played sparingly in Big East Conference tournament games against Marquette and Creighton.

"I was fine tonight," Stainbrook said. "I just tried to feed off the energy everyone else brought. I was excited for the game and definitely wished for a better outcome."

Sophomore guard Semaj Christon scored 14 points but also committed seven turnovers for Xavier, which trailed by six points at halftime.

The Musketeers mounted a brief comeback in the second half.

Guard Dee Davis' 3-pointer and Christon's layup cut Xavier's deficit to two points, but behind Warren, North Carolina State always seemed to have an answer.

Three consecutive baskets by Warren pushed the Wolfpack's lead to 49-42. Warren's dunk made the score 57-47 with 7:56 remaining.


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The Wolfpack, not considered a 3-point shooting team, hit two of their first five 3-point attempts to grab the early lead.

Barber's layup capped a 6-0 run to put North Carolina State ahead 22-14. The Wolfpack led by as many as 10 points in the first half.

Xavier committed eight turnovers in the first half and North Carolina State converted those into six points, resulting in a 34-28 halftime lead for the Wolfpack.

The personal competition between Christon and Warren, former classmates at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., was evident throughout the first half. Christon scored eight points and Warren had nine, but both players went into halftime with two fouls.

Warren overcame his foul trouble, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the second half.

"I just kept moving without the basketball and stayed aggressive," Warren said. "I knew that eventually my shots were going to fall. My teammates did a great job at finding me in my sweet spot. So just aggressiveness, staying at it."

Xavier's season-long weakness, perimeter shooting, prevented a rally. The Musketeers went 2-for-14 from 3-point range Tuesday.

"We're not a very good shooting team," Mack said. "We didn't shoot it well, didn't get to the free-throw line, and we turned the ball over. We weren't good enough on the offensive end to win."


NOTES: The teams met for the first time. ... Xavier is one of just 13 schools that participated in the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past nine seasons. ... North Carolina State reached the NCAA Tournament on the 40th anniversary of the first of its two national championships. ... Xavier G Semaj Christon and F Jalen Reynolds and North Carolina State G T.J. Warren were teammates at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Wolfpack G Patrick Wallace and F Kyle Washington also attended Brewster. ... North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried is the third coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history to reach the NCAA Tournament in his first three seasons, joining Roy Williams and Bill Guthridge.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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