RALEIGH, N.C. — The polling was supposed to end at 9 p.m., but T.J. Warren effectively ended all voting for Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year about an hour before the ballots were even due.
Warren, who had a career-high 41 points in an ACC road victory at Pittsburgh Monday, bolstered his candidacy when he surpassed that total with 42 points in North Carolina State’s 78-68 victory over Boston College Sunday night before a PNC Arena crowd of 14,316.
Stop the voting. We have a winner.
“I mean what more does a guy have to do?’’ said NC State coach Mark Gottfried. “Sometimes people vote early, and then hope they can get it back. I mean, come on. You have to be kidding me. This guy, T.J. Warren, is absolutely deserving of it.’’
Warren, who had 22 points in the first half, led the Wolfpack (19-12, 9-9) by hitting 14 of 23 field goals and 14 of 17 foul shots. He outdueled BC sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who led the Eagles (8-23, 4-14) with 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 from the line, in a showdown of two of the league’s top three scorers.
“We got a look at, arguably, the best scorer in the country and he did his thing well today,’’ BC junior Ryan Anderson (15 points, five rebounds) said of Warren. “He was aggressive from the tip, had a couple of early layups that got him going in transition. After that, a guy like that is tough to stop.
“He definitely made a good impression if this was his last game at NC State or whatever it is going to be for his future. He definitely played well today.’’
Warren, a sophomore, came in as the ACC’s leading scorer (24.2 points per game) and nearly got his scoring average in the first half as he led the Wolfpack to a commanding 42-31 halftime advantage. But there was a stretch in the first half in which Hanlan seemed to engage Warren in a mano-a-mano duel, each trading one tough shot after another.
“He hit some pretty crazy shots and I just tried to hit whatever shots I got and it kept on going like that,’’ said Hanlan,who also had five assists to go along with two rebounds. “He hit a whole bunch of tough ones, just in the key. I felt like he mastered that range, that 15-footer. He has a pretty smooth touch. He was impressive.’’
The Eagles, who are seeded 14th in the ACC tournament and will face Georgia Tech Wednesday night in Greensboro, N.C., surged to an early 12-6 lead on a reverse layup by freshman Garland Owens.
But NC State went on a 21-8 run to take a 27-20 lead on Anthony Barber’s stop-and-pop jumper from the lane with 6:17 to go.
Joe Rahon (8 points) finished off a 3-point play to pull BC within 3, 29-26, but NC State outscored the Eagles, 13-5, in the final five minutes, getting a huge 3-pointer by Ralston Turner to give the Wolfpack a commanding 11-point lead at the break.
After NC State expanded its lead by as many as 14, 46-32, Hanlan converted a 3-point play to spark a 15-0 run to help the Eagles take a 47-46 lead with 13:12 to go on Anderson’s left-handed baseline floater.
After BC took a 58-56 lead on a pair of foul shots by Lonnie Jackson, Warren sparked a 13-2 run, scoring the first 7 himself, to help the Wolfpack build a 69-60 lead they never relinquished.
“I was very proud of our guys in the second half, in particular with the way we came out,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue, who presided over a 23-loss regular season that marked the most since the Eagles lost 21 in Al Skinner’s second year in 1998-99. “We took the lead and played great basketball, but it was a disappointing first half and probably dug ourselves too big a hole.
“But for the most part, I thought we outplayed them in the second half and was real proud of our effort.’’Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.