Let's be honest here with each other: T.J. Warren beat Pitt. Yes, pretty much single-handedly, the North Carolina State sophomore was in full beast mode against the Panthers tonight and dropped 41 points on Jamie Dixon's squad in a 74-67 win for the Wolfpack. In a game that saw Pitt go up by as much as 13 points in the first half, N.C. State came roaring back and closed the gap to five at the half and picked up where they left off in the second half.
Make no mistake about who the star of the night was in this one. The Panthers tried man-to-man and zone and it didn't matter. When Pitt went man, Warren drove or hit a soft jumper from the line. The Panthers switched it up to zone and it didn't make a difference, as the 6'8 forward went 3-5 from beyond the arc. You have to sit in awe of his final line for the night: 41 points, five rebounds, three assists, four steals, and added in one block just for kicks. The Durham, NC native finished the night 16 of 22 from the field. That's video game type numbers.
The night started off well for Pitt with everyone getting into the act, including Josh Newkirk off the bench. Newkirk, Patterson, and Zanna had the Panthers off and running to a 36-23 first half lead with 3:37 remaining before the break. That is when Pitt went into a funk and the Wolfpack used the drought to cut the lead to five points.
Pitt seemed to come back ready in the second half and quickly established a seven point lead a couple of minutes into the half, but Warren simply put N.C. State on his back and would not be denied. The Pack took the lead with a little over 13 minutes left and never trailed again. It seemed that every time Pitt hit a huge shot, Warren would answer on the next trip down the floor.
The ACC Player of the Year candidate overshadowed a brilliant performance by freshman Newkirk, who ended the game with a career-high 20 points. The backup guard stepped up while James Robinson continued to struggle down the stretch. Pitt will now go on the road to end the season in what will be a match up against Clemson to determine the five seed in the ACC tournament. The game will also go a long way with the NCAA selection committee as the Panthers have put themselves firmly on the bubble. If they want to leave no doubt, they will have to bring home a win on Saturday. If they fail to do so, they will put a ton of pressure on themselves in the conference tournament to continue their season.