DAYTON, Ohio – Two missed shots, two quick fouls. T.J. Warren’s second chance at the NCAA tournament didn’t start well.
It ended with the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top player putting on a show.
The hard-to-guard sophomore forward scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half on Tuesday night, showing why he was voted the ACC player of the year, and North Carolina State led most of the way in a 74-59 victory over Xavier in the NCAA tournament’s First Four.
N.C. State (22-12) didn’t have much time to celebrate. The 12th-seeded Wolfpack headed to the airport for a two-hour flight to Orlando, Fla., and a game Thursday against Saint Louis.
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Warren had the most to do with the victory. He made up for a freshman tournament flop on the same floor a year earlier and prevented Xavier (21-14) from getting traction in the second half.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” said Warren, who was 10 of 18 from the field. “My shots wouldn’t fall in the first half, but my teammates did a great job of finding me.”
No surprise there.
“Eventually in a 40-minute game, he’s going to find a way,” coach Mark Gottfried said.
Center Matt Stainbrook led Xavier with 19 points and nine rebounds despite an injured left knee. Leading scorer Semaj Christon was limited to 14 points, and Xavier made a mere 2 of 14 shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Xavier’s biggest disappointment was its inability to slow the Wolfpack in the second half, when N.C. State shot 61.5 percent from the field.
“We weren’t ourselves today on defense,” Stainbrook said. “We build our identity on defense. When we can’t get stops, it ruins everything else. Overall, it was just a shambles.”
Other NCAA game
Albany 71, Mount St. Mary’s 64
D.J. Evans is charitably listed at 5 feet 9. Teammates tease him that he looks a foot shorter.
Yet he stood tall for Albany. Evans scored 22 points, including two clinching free throws with 12.6 seconds left, to lead the Great Danes to their first NCAA tournament victory.
Evans, an often-overlooked component in Albany’s lineup, belied his height with nine rebounds.
“He’s about 4-foot-8, so he’s really impressive,” said fellow guard Peter Hooley, who had 20 points. “I don’t think there’s another 4-8 guard who could go in there and get that many boards. He did what he needed to do to get this win.”
• Cal Poly coach Joe Callero, who has the Mustangs in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, was hired in April 2009. He previously coached Seattle University.
Callero, an Enumclaw High School graduate, was a captain at Central Washington.
Cal Poly (13-19) is the 20th team with a losing record to play in the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs face Texas Southern (19-14) on Wednesday in Dayton and the winner will play Wichita State (34-0) in the second round Friday in St. Louis.
“If we win the national championship, we’ll have a winning record,” Callero said.